“Something Wild” is Hanna Halperin’s first novel, born from a short story written while she was getting her MFA in fiction.
The novel centers on two sisters who suspect their mother is experiencing domestic violence. Halperin drew on her own family to sketch the sister relationship. “I think an interesting thing about siblings is that we have a certain language that we speak with each other,” she said. Despite her closeness with her own sister (“I think she’s one of the people that I admire most in the world,” she added), Halperin wanted to look at family differences as well — including differences in social class, as represented by the different Boston suburbs in which the characters live.
While working on the book, she served as a domestic violence and rape crisis counselor (she still works part time in the field). “Doing this work up close and being so close to trauma, it seeps into me and it seeps into my writing,” Halperin said. “But everything in the novel is fictional. The safety and confidentiality of clients is my number one priority.”
She hopes her novel will help readers “feel less alone, or maybe less shame,” she said, adding, “it’s so difficult to navigate that conversation, when someone comes to you, a friend, or family member, and discloses to you what they’re experiencing, whether they use the word abuse or not.”
“The characters in this book really struggle about how to have those conversations,” Halperin said. “It’s part of my job and I still struggle. They can be very difficult. But if someone discloses that to you it’s because they trust you.”
Hanna Halperin will be in conversation with Randy Susan Meyers at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 15, at a virtual event hosted by Harvard Book Store.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.