Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways: A Memoir
Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways: A Memoir

Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways: A Memoir

by Brittany Means
    October 03, 2023

A PEOPLE magazine pick, Best Books Fall 2023: "A breathtaking memoir about surviving a horrifying childhood; Means...transforms memories...into a work of art."

Starred review from Kirkus: "This book is an outstanding debut...A harrowing and soulful memoir to be read, savored, and reread."

"Brittany Means has pieced together the shards of a devastating childhood in this powerful memoir. It's gut-wrenching but at the same time triumphant, harrowing yet exquisitely told. Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways is a story of survival that left me choked up and cheering."
-Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

"The book's lasting impact might be what it demands of the memoir genre. Brittany Means has, at once, created the most readable and the most psychologically rigorous book I've read in decades. I needed the reminder that art can do this."
-Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

"I can't write a story about myself as the sad, quiet child of two drug addicts. That's not how it was, even when it was. To me, sleeping in the car was normal. Better, it was comfy and fun. I loved my bed made of clothes inside a trash bag that I sank into slowly like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family movie. . . . I loved the motels and their swimming pools and trashy daytime TV channels. . . . Nobody could tell us what to do."

Brittany Means's childhood was a blur of highways and traumas that collapsed any effort to track time. Riding shotgun as her mother struggled to escape abusive relationships, Brittany didn't care where they were going--to a roadside midwestern motel, a shelter, or The Barn in Indiana, the cluttered mansion her Pentecostal grandparents called home--as long as they were together. But every so often, her mom would surprise her--and leave.

As Brittany grew older and questioned her own complicated relationships and the poverty, abuse, and instability that enveloped her, she began to recognize that hell wasn't only the place she read about in the Bible; it was the cycle of violence that entrapped her family. Through footholds such as horror movies, neuropsychology, and strong bonds, Brittany makes sense of this cycle and finds a way to leave it.

While untangling the web of her most painful memories, Brittany crafts a tale of self-preservation, resilience, and hope with a unique narrative style--a sparkling example of the human ability to withstand the most horrific experiences and still thrive.