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Jenna Bush Hager picks 'intimate' novel about addiction for December 2021 book club

"While heartbreaking at times, I found the book to be about resilience and the power of a mother’s love," said Jenna.
/ Source: TODAY

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As the holiday season kicks into high gear in December, Jenna Bush Hager has another book club pick to share with readers. This month, the Read With Jenna book club will read Lisa Harding's American debut "Bright Burning Things."

The novel is about Sonya, a former actress who is facing down the demons of her childhood trauma and failed career. As her alcoholism spirals out of control, the one thing she remains proud of is her 4-year-old son, Tommy.

"I have never read a book that addresses mental health and alcoholism in as transparent and beautiful a way as 'Bright Burning Things,'" said Jenna Bush Hager.

While her love for her son is unquestionable, Sonya is also gripped by her desire to drown out the fear, doubt and pain she feels with alcohol. Eventually, she is forced to make a choice between being Tommy's mom and her addiction.

"While heartbreaking at times, I found the book to be about resilience and the power of a mother’s love," said Jenna, "The writing is raw and intimate. I felt like I was in their apartment with them."

For Harding, the book was inspired by personal experience with addiction.

"My own life has been affected by loving people with addiction. And I've been kind of fascinated or spent a lot of my life trying to work out why people do things that are seemingly so self-destructive," Harding told TODAY.

She shared that writing the novel helped her to see addiction from a different perspective.

"It really did help me climb inside that mindset, which is very complex. It's not about being lazy, or, you know, being impulsive. It really helped me to understand the pull of addiction and also, in my character's case, and in many people's case, it's about running away from past trauma and not being able to sit in your own skin," said the Irish author.

As the book club dives in during the month of December, Harding hopes readers will find the love amongst the struggle.

"Stick with this because there is hope," said Harding, "There is magic and beauty in amongst a lot of the trauma and this novel does take you on a journey."

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