Bloomsbury. Jun. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781635574555. $28. MEMOIR
Essayist Rodenberg (English, Big Sandy Community and Technical Coll.) shares her story of growing up in Appalachia, spanning from before her birth until her early twenties. Rodenberg spent her early childhood years as part of a religious community called the Body, where she experienced sexual abuse from a church elder. When her family moved to eastern Kentucky, she constantly felt alienated from her peers due to her religious upbringing and economic status. Her relationship with her father was contentious and often resulted in Rodenberg experiencing verbal and physical abuse; but with the women in her family Rodenberg found acceptance. She enrolled in college but faced numerous obstacles, causing her to drop out, and an unplanned pregnancy led her into a loveless marriage. Throughout the memoir, Rodenberg juxtaposes her stories with those of earlier generations of her family as a way of exploring how actions of the past manifest in the present.
VERDICT Rodenberg writes with an evocative and unflinching style, despite sometimes jarring shifts in narrative. This is a richly nuanced portrait of people and place, along with the bounds of forgiveness. Good for biography readers eager to explore the complexities of family relationships, or readers interested in women’s lives in Appalachia.
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