Cover Image: Persephone's Children

Persephone's Children

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

It was an interesting read. I just kept getting lost. The arrangement was choppy and disjointed, making it difficult to follow at times. I liked reading about the author’s family history and also all the pictures that  were included.
Was this review helpful?
Persephone's Children is an unique, different memoir. 
The vibes are "memoir x poetry collection" - made with an assortment of different formats, each Fragment tells you a new bit of the author's life. The writing style also contributed to the poetry feel. 
This creative non-fiction creates a different type of interaction with the book and with the "story", and seems particularly fitting when discussing the parts of a life that deal with pain, abuse, discrimination/oppression and trauma. 
Most of the book deals with heavy, dark moments /periods of McCandless life, mainly regarding her abusive relationships, and her road as a survivor. Other themes include race (biracial), eating disorders, sexual assault, being a mother, abortion, being a woman.

TW/CW: abortion, relationship/domestic abuse, sexual assault, racism, eating disorders, medical issues (specifically in giving birth).

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
A deeply intimate and earnest memoir, told through mixed mediums. It was an interesting and important reckoning of Canada’s racist history told through the author’s own familial experience, and I commend her for being strong enough to not only grapple with inter-generational trauma, but to then share it with the world.
Was this review helpful?
Pretty interesting and important read. The essays were so wonderfully put together. Truly and genuinely enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
i'll admit, this almost became a DNF for me based off of the first 14%, and i think that's a shame, because mccandless makes a lot of innovative and frankly groundbreaking formatting and writing decisions throughout, but beginning the book with an alphabetical list of key words that will be used throughout the book, when the reader hasn't been introduced to the narrator just yet, made it very difficult to get through. when i finished the book, i thought very distinctly that the first and last sections of the book should be swapped - it makes far more sense for the 'needs/wants' section to begin the book and the alphabetical glossary to conclude it. as i finish it, i think that the digital formatting of the book is probably to its own detriment, and that anyone that's interested in reading it would enjoy a physical copy more. the digital formatting made it difficult to scroll back and forth to gain context, to 'flip' through the pages to connect a lot of the larger sections of the book, and overall made what i know to be a cohesive novel disjointed.
Was this review helpful?
Persephone’s Children floored me. It is so unique yet stunningly written and really gives a different perspective into how a brain processes trauma. How our minds jump to different memories via connections, how different experiences trigger us. 

I also appreciated the history sprinkled throughout the book, and Grandma Daisy’s story made me ache as an Atlantic Canadian. I was so ignorant of the history of the KKK throughout Canada, and the Maritimes and I cannot imagine the trauma.

The book explores domestic abuse and generational trauma very well and I felt privileged to have read this book.
Was this review helpful?
Rowan McCandless uses a lovely, unique manner to create her memoir; she uses scaffolding of various types, including the alphabet that begins the book (A is for…), followed by a screenplay, poems, and crossword puzzles, along with essays. In this creative yet unorthodox manner, Ms. McCandless lays out all the hardships she endures in her lifetime, ranging from poverty, childhood and domestic abuse, an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and institutional racism. 

After eating three pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, Persephone must spend part of her year there and part on the surface of the earth, thus effectively straddling two worlds. Ms. McCandless, a biracial woman, must do the same, existing between her white and her black families. The alphabet that begins this work gives a baseline from which she and her readers explore her life. Though the timeframe isn’t chronological, the bouncing around gives some sense of how memories are explored and reframed over time. Overall, this was a powerful, moving book.
Was this review helpful?
Probably the most fascinating memoir I've read. I admire the author for taking a chance on employing so many different structures to tell her story. All the fragments give you an inisght into how the brain works to cope with different traumatic events, reimagining and restructuring and viewing memories through different lenses in order to make sense of them. I'll definitely be thinking about this book for a long time.
Was this review helpful?
Persephone’s Children by Rowan McCandless

328 Pages
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Release Date: November 9, 2021

Nonfiction, Biographies, Memoirs, Domestic Violence, Counseling

Rowan McCandless is a biracial woman living in Canada. She writes about her abusive relationships and her final escape. She shows how much it took to finally have the courage to leave. 

These are the names of the chapters.

Blood Tithes: A Primer
Binding Resolutions
Articulations of Loss
Trialogue: A Play on Words
Thoughts on Keeping a Notebook
Map of the World
Forest, Tree, Branch, Root
Revolving Doors
Found Objects
Hunger Games: A Quiz
Bait and Switch
Practical Magick: A Beginner’s Grimoire
Vocal Lessons: A Diagnostic Report
An Inventory of Wants and Needs

The book is written in a unique format. Some of it is written as a dictionary of terms with definitions. There are questions and quizzes with multiple choice answers. Each chapter discusses a specific times or events in the author’s life. Dealing with domestic violence is hard and the author shows her bravery in her worlds. She also talks about how words can hurt a woman, especially a woman with an eating disorder and a woman of color. 

When I started the book, I was confused with the first chapter but soon realized how the author was laying out the story. There are sayings in the book that will stay with me long after I finish the book. I enjoyed reading about Rowan and her courage to leave a violent situation. I recommend this book to see how hard it is to live with domestic violence and make the decision to leave.
Was this review helpful?
Rowan McCandless writes about being in an abusive relationship and the damage and trauma this has caused, even long after she has decided to leave. The structure of this memoir is so interesting and unlike anything I'd read before: each chapter is written in a different format. One chapter takes the form of a contract; one is a crossword puzzle; one details a diagnosis of her vocal chords and the damage the relationship caused to her voice. My favourite (though this sounds strange to say about a book that deals with such difficult topics) was the chapter that took the form of a screenplay: she and her then-husband played fictionalised versions of themselves, and the director and writer kept trying to fit their story into different genres. The way McCandless writes about her experiences is so vulnerable and sincere. She talks about growing up in a mixed-race household and the complexities this brings; she discusses being sexually assaulted as a teenager and how the shame and guilt she felt influenced other events later in her life. She writes about writing and how this played a big part in her recovery after leaving her abusive husband. Though I don't think the format of the memoir always worked perfectly, I really loved the parts where it did and really admire McCandless for trying something so different. I enjoyed her writing and look forward to seeing what she writes next.
Was this review helpful?
A very interesting memoir. Though I did not find it as engaging as one written like a story, full marks for ingenuity.
Was this review helpful?
Very interesting; I especially enjoyed how it was read with an alphabetic story line. The pictures brought it closer to real life to see. Thank you for the read.
Was this review helpful?
This was a clever, unique and quite beautiful way for the author to have written her memoir, of escaping  and healing from domestic abuse, child abuse, institutional racism and an eating disorder.

The book was written in essay form, essays that included being written as a script, an acrostic poem, and my favorite  (as an SLP) an SLP report to show how she, the author, lost and reclaimed her voice. 

This book was very creative in it's form, I didn't necessarily feel as if I got to know the author and her family very well which is what I enjoy about memoir,  but I guess that wasn't really the point of this book.

I would give a 5 for brilliance and how cleverly the book was written, but a 3 for my engagement, which averages out to a 4! 

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Really interesting read from the start. A lot of personal information and historical information that made me look a few things up to expand my knowledge more. There's a lot of family and societal issues brought up throughout that really make the reader think and feel for the author and their family.
Was this review helpful?
This was a really interesting take on writing a memoir. Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

It’s an account of McCandless’ journey to recovery after a lifetime of abuse. From a toxic home environment, she is catapulted into toxic relationships and marriages which ended up equally abusive.

I enjoyed the explorative nature of this. McCandless recounts her experiences of abuse and recovery not in the conventional memoir way, but instead through different collections of writing. This includes an A-Z of word association, memories from different addresses, memories associated with different trees, research data, psychiatrist reports, and word searches. This almost stream-of-consciousness style was really illuminating; I get the feeling that these sections were written as essays to help her come to terms with her experiences, and that these essays were then compiled into a book. Personally I quite enjoyed this approach - but it may not be to everyone’s tastes, and I did grow a bit tired of it towards the end as it felt like a repetition of the same points in different ways.

It does, at points, make for really tough and heartbreaking reading. However, it is some of the most breathtakingly beautiful, raw and perceptive writing I’ve come across in a while. As well as a personal testimony, it does also include some interesting social commentary; there were many elements of this that I found myself nodding in agreement with. Her perspective on life as a female of mixed heritage (and therefore highly vulnerable in an environment rife with racism and objectification) were enlightening.
Was this review helpful?
Persephone's Children is a memoir about a woman's experience escaping an abusive relationship that eroded her livelihood for a long period of time. I enjoyed the format of the story, as it was split up into fragmented essays. The author experiments with layout and unconventional modes of self-expression. As a result, the end result is incredibly unique. McCandless's writing is candid and honest, and her perspectives on race, intergenerational trauma, motherhood, and womanhood are very insightful. 

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Persephone's Children was provided for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I read this on my kindle. 5/5 ⭐

The goddess Persephone has to straddle two worlds. As a mixed race woman, Rowan McCandless relates. In a collection of essays, Rowan shares with us her life. She shares her trauma, her recovery, and her resilience.

This book was powerful. Rowan was sexually assaulted at a young age, belittled and abused by her parents, abused by several husband's, and struggled with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and a restrictive eating disorder, all while facing the challenge of racism.

The essays in this book are brilliantly written. Some examples are; Rowan writes out the alphabet, introducing us to her complex family and giving a baseline of her life experiences. She writes a play, to showcase how difficult it was to work with her abusive husband, M. Rowan writes a full psychological evaluation, detailing how and why her voice isn't always around. Rowan detailed her stays in a crisis stabilization unit by identifying writing prompts.

The content of the essays isn't always in a linear time scale, focusing on several different time periods of Rowan's life simultaneously. I found it was appropriate because when recalling trauma, memories ann't stirred up in a linear fashion.

Overall, This essay collection was powerful, captivating, and moving.

I highly recommend!

A note: I had difficulty with the formatting of this book. Often pictures would appear halfway through sentences, and new essays would start on the same page as old ones. Pictures wouldn't load on many pages either. Sometimes new paragraphs would start within the previous paragraph. I'm not sure if this is intentional, or if when the PDF was loaded onto my Kindle it formatted weird.
Was this review helpful?
Rowan McCandless created a unique memoir by a series of inventive essays, some of those resembling dictionary or encyclopedia entries, others looking like crosswords and puzzles, while another looked like daily journal entries with prompts and one was written like a play. In this unorthodox but creative way, McCandless discusses all the hardships that she went through in her life including abuse, trauma, and loss. 

Persephone's Children is the proof that there is no limit in the ways we can tell our stories and through skillful techniques more and more groundbreaking stories come to light every day.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting book about a woman’s journey.  I enjoyed it.  It was something new to me and I learned more about someone who I might not have met otherwise.
Was this review helpful?
I rarely read nonfiction because sometimes they are rather boring or the topic is just not interesting enough to get my attention. 
Not only did the title and synopsis of this biography got my attention but after reading through I felt that I was watching McCandless's memories through her writing and the photographs. I feel that we need more nonfiction that discusses domestic relationship abuse. More voices to be heard that should be known that abusive relationships are tough to cope with and harder to leave safely. I'm glad that McCandless found her voice with writing. Writing helps understand and realize our true feelings as well as seeing through a different perspective of the current situation. I cried reading this because it is never an easy topic to begin with and it is hard to read.
Was this review helpful?