Three Minute Review: Sakinah Hofler on Kelly Sundberg



Three Minute Review: Sakinah Hofler on Kelly Sundberg



Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival

HarperCollins, 2018






If this book took the form of a landscape, it would be a mashup of seemingly impossible terrains:

  • Shifting mountains. “That hot, dry summer was the summer that I spent digging in clear, cold mountain streams. The first scoop of dirt was always the easiest, the soil breaking away from the rocks, but as the holes got deeper, the soil was more packed. There were often large boulders in my way that I had to work around. I sat on that bucket, dug, and daydreamed about the things I couldn’t have. Caleb was beginning to feel like one of those boulders.”
  • A karst, where Caleb is the acidic water beating and wearing down Kelly’s livelihood, creating sinkhole after sinkhole after sinkhole


If this book was a room in the house, it would be a haunted closet. Everyone’s full of secrets – Kelly, her husband, her mother. Kelly never tells her mother about the time her neighbor tried to stab her or about the night an acquaintance sexually assaulted her. Even when her husband’s abuse carries out into the open, she figures out a way to conceal it:

I cried “I’ll fix this,” and headed upstairs.

I spoke to the resident assistants, shoulders shaking, and started sobbing. “I’m sorry,” I said. “He’s taking medication for his moods, and he’s having problems. Side effects.” This was true. “Please don’t tell anyone. I know I don’t have the right to ask you that, but please don’t tell anyone.”


Is this book papyrus, typewriter, desktop computer, or iPad? None of the above. This book is a voice, begging for us to listen:


I stopped writing because it was becoming impossible to rewrite the story in a way that felt authentic.

I stopped writing because I wanted to write, “I no longer know where he ends, and I begin.”

I stopped writing because I wanted to write, “He ends.”

I stopped writing because I wanted to write, “I begin.”


Sakinah Hofler is the 2017 winner of the Manchester Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Philadelphia Stories, and elsewhere. A former chemical engineer, she’s currently a PhD student and an Alfred C. Yates Fellow at the University of Cincinnati.

Twitter: @blackquisition




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