The Secret Habit of Sorrow


Victoria Patterson, whose writing Vanity Fair has called “brutal, deeply empathetic, and emotionally wrenching,” returns with a new collection of stories that contains echoes of Denis Johnson and Raymond Carver, along with the emotional depth and density of Elena Ferrante.

There’s a pitch-perfect blend of linguistic dexterity, emotional wisdom, and wry observation in The Secret Habit of Sorrow. The characters in these stories feel like people you know, their struggles real. Patterson’s prose has a Denis Johnson re-filtered through Raymond Carver-vibe, along with the emotional depth and density of Elena Ferrante. Whether it be the ties between women and their own and each other’s infants, the struggles of parenthood, or the trials that come with excessive drinking and drug abuse, Patterson has an amazing ability to convey relationships, and how our bonds can both save and destroy us.

Her previous collection of stories, Drift, was a finalist for the California Book Award and the Story Prize, and was selected as one of the best books of 2009 by The San Francisco Chronicle


“There are echoes of Flannery O’Connor here, with more compassion.” Review from Paul Wilner

Rave review from The Los Angeles Times

“Patterson is on a mission to bring our ghosts out of the shadows. These stories shine with empathy and find the humanness in all our struggles.”
―Joshua Mohr, author of All This Life

“A darkly entertaining collection of stories all about the little sins we commit in the name of our desires and their myriad repercussions. Armed with sharp emotional insight and vision that penetrates and illuminates the modern condition, Patterson’s newest offering is seductively sly and peculiarly carnal.” —Wesley Minter, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Bad choices and addiction are common here, but Patterson’s unfussy prose draws the reader into her complex, sometimes even convoluted relationships…The beating hearts of Patterson’s characters and the directness of her voice make the grim material bearable, sometimes almost hopeful.”–Kirkus

characters are plagued by their experiences and afflictions, entangled with the need to cope alongside an urgency to break free. Dark yet assured, Patterson’s short stories expose and explore the complicated ruptures of the human experience.”—Booklist

Patterson excels at excavating the lighter side of her characters’ otherwise sad experiences to find stories that are amusing and poignant without being overly sentimental.–Publishers Weekly