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Kin: A Memoir

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Rona Jaffe Award winner and Jean Richie Memorial Fellow Shawna Kay Rodenberg's KIN, a memoir of an Appalachian girlhood and a portrait of a misunderstood and often misrepresented people from the daughter of a family who has lived in the same hills in eastern Kentucky for over three hundred years, to Anton Mueller at Bloomsbury. Rona Jaffe Award winner and Jean Richie Memorial Fellow Shawna Kay Rodenberg's KIN, a memoir of an Appalachian girlhood and a portrait of a misunderstood and often misrepresented people from the daughter of a family who has lived in the same hills in eastern Kentucky for over three hundred years, to Anton Mueller at Bloomsbury.


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Rona Jaffe Award winner and Jean Richie Memorial Fellow Shawna Kay Rodenberg's KIN, a memoir of an Appalachian girlhood and a portrait of a misunderstood and often misrepresented people from the daughter of a family who has lived in the same hills in eastern Kentucky for over three hundred years, to Anton Mueller at Bloomsbury. Rona Jaffe Award winner and Jean Richie Memorial Fellow Shawna Kay Rodenberg's KIN, a memoir of an Appalachian girlhood and a portrait of a misunderstood and often misrepresented people from the daughter of a family who has lived in the same hills in eastern Kentucky for over three hundred years, to Anton Mueller at Bloomsbury.

30 review for Kin: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Buchta

    I wanted to love this book. I love a good memoir, especially one that includes religious cults. The story was there, but I think the author had difficulty putting it into a cohesive tale that flowed effortlessly for the reader. I loved hearing about Shawna’s experience, but Shorty’s endless Vietnam letters I could’ve done without. I also wanted to know how Shawna’s experience in The Body and eastern KY helped her survive life in Virginia and as a married adult and mother. Again, the story is the I wanted to love this book. I love a good memoir, especially one that includes religious cults. The story was there, but I think the author had difficulty putting it into a cohesive tale that flowed effortlessly for the reader. I loved hearing about Shawna’s experience, but Shorty’s endless Vietnam letters I could’ve done without. I also wanted to know how Shawna’s experience in The Body and eastern KY helped her survive life in Virginia and as a married adult and mother. Again, the story is there but the execution was lacking for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paulette Livers

    Raymond Carver said he never talked down to his characters, because they were his people. Rodenberg manages the difficult task of treating her characters with dignity and respect, while infusing her narrative with the deepest and best sort of humor. I've been waiting for this book for a long time, and hope it gets the recognition it deserves for examining a distinct American culture in a way that 'Hillbilly Elegy' failed to do. Raymond Carver said he never talked down to his characters, because they were his people. Rodenberg manages the difficult task of treating her characters with dignity and respect, while infusing her narrative with the deepest and best sort of humor. I've been waiting for this book for a long time, and hope it gets the recognition it deserves for examining a distinct American culture in a way that 'Hillbilly Elegy' failed to do.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Madeline Rodenberg

    This book is a beautiful portrayal of the struggle to find oneself in a world that thinks it already knows who you are. Shawna Rodenberg is not just a survivor, she’s a fighter and a rebel, and she rebels by loving a universe that isn’t always kind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brooke || FindingMyFavoriteBook

    I received this copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. A family portrayal of emotional and physical abuse in the backdrop of a religious cult. Although told from the perspective of the woman who lived it, the stories seemed somewhat random and I couldn’t connect with the characters. I had hoped for another book like Educated or The Sound of Gravel and, unfortunately, this one fell flat.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan Sanders

    Kindle ARC from NetGalley I had a hard time following the characters and alternating timelines. It felt more like a reciting of events than threaded together with a theme or cohesive narration. Maybe it is because I don’t know enough about where the author is now?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had an ARC of this book from NetGalley. When you grow up in dysfunction there’s stages. When you are very young you don’t realize not everyone lives like that, when you get to school you try to be perfect so no one knows and when you get older you seek out books like this to let you know there are others out there like you. Kin is a book about generational trauma. It’s not an overly sad book but it has moments of abuse of children. The author does a great job exploring her family history of how I had an ARC of this book from NetGalley. When you grow up in dysfunction there’s stages. When you are very young you don’t realize not everyone lives like that, when you get to school you try to be perfect so no one knows and when you get older you seek out books like this to let you know there are others out there like you. Kin is a book about generational trauma. It’s not an overly sad book but it has moments of abuse of children. The author does a great job exploring her family history of how she got to where she is. I wondered if she had ADHD from some of her behaviors or if that was just boredom from being brilliant in a religiously stifling environment. I also thought she had sensory processing issues because of her reactions to foods and textures it was that just her response to trauma. This was interesting. It was lacking in connection and answers in some parts- I found myself scrambling and going back in pages to see if I could figure out what was missing. But this was an interesting account of the authors life and family.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janisse Ray

    I read an Advanced Reading Copy, for the purpose of giving this book a blurb. It's a powerful read. I read an Advanced Reading Copy, for the purpose of giving this book a blurb. It's a powerful read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane Secchiaroli

    This is a story of survival, the struggle to find oneself, and familial abuse throughout the generations. Shawna is born in Appalachia but moves to Minnesota when her father takes the family to join a religious cult, The Body. Shawna is a rebellious child and in constant turmoil with her father who has his own demons. The whole family has demons which effect their relationships. The story is sometimes difficult to follow as each family members background is reviewed. Possibly in the final versio This is a story of survival, the struggle to find oneself, and familial abuse throughout the generations. Shawna is born in Appalachia but moves to Minnesota when her father takes the family to join a religious cult, The Body. Shawna is a rebellious child and in constant turmoil with her father who has his own demons. The whole family has demons which effect their relationships. The story is sometimes difficult to follow as each family members background is reviewed. Possibly in the final version the chapters will be more clearly designated. This was an ARC through NetGalley.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I got 47% of the way through Kin, but I just couldn't bring myself to keep reading. Kin is about author Shawna Kay Rodenberg's experience growing up in The Body, an end-of-times religious community in Minnesota, and then her family's subsequent return to the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. I had a hard time with the writing style of the book. I often had trouble following the differing narratives, due to the swift and numerous temporal changes as well as the many differing POVs. Some o I got 47% of the way through Kin, but I just couldn't bring myself to keep reading. Kin is about author Shawna Kay Rodenberg's experience growing up in The Body, an end-of-times religious community in Minnesota, and then her family's subsequent return to the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. I had a hard time with the writing style of the book. I often had trouble following the differing narratives, due to the swift and numerous temporal changes as well as the many differing POVs. Some of the chapters were told from the author's POV, while others were told from her mother's and other family members' viewpoints. And, although this is no fault of the author's, there were A LOT of characters, and it was a bit difficult to keep track of all of them/how they were all related. I also felt like the book was missing some puzzle pieces that would have helped me better understand the author's experiences, especially since I really had no point of reference for what she experienced growing up. For example, she talks about her older brother Jesse having some serious and dangerous outbursts that caused her and her family to fear for their lives, and the fact that he was kept in a locked cage. But, as far as I read, she never talked about whether Jesse suffered from any sort of mental illness (even if he wasn't diagnosed at the time). While I appreciate the author's willingness to put herself and her story out there into the world, ultimately, this book just wasn't my cup of tea. CW: sexual and physical abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse Thank you to @netgalley and @bloomsburypublishing for the gifted eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with this book. Kin by Shawna Kay Rodenberg is a memoir of survival with the good and the bad in and out of religious cult fervor. Like most kids, she spent much of her youth trying to figure out how to please parents who set their own rules and carried with them many of their own demons from childhood. Rodenberg make no excuses for the self-admitted rebellion of her youth. Loyalty runs deep in her bloodline. As Rodenberg tells h Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with this book. Kin by Shawna Kay Rodenberg is a memoir of survival with the good and the bad in and out of religious cult fervor. Like most kids, she spent much of her youth trying to figure out how to please parents who set their own rules and carried with them many of their own demons from childhood. Rodenberg make no excuses for the self-admitted rebellion of her youth. Loyalty runs deep in her bloodline. As Rodenberg tells her story, she frames up her parent’s generational past to explain the who and why of what they became. Coupled with their periodic journey in and out of their cult utopia, this powerful book reveals the most elemental flaws of the human psyche under that spasmodic influence. I couldn’t help but think of the saying truth is stranger than fiction as Rodenberg describes the relations in her family tree. It’s important to note the chapter dates to adjust to the timeline jumps, and I wish there was a family tree diagram to help keep track of the generations. While admittedly not laid out chronologically as smooth as The Glass Castle, Educated and The Sound of Gravel, those who loved those book will find much to like in Kin, and like those others this story will stay with you for quite some time. 4.5 stars rounded up.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah stevens

    Overall, this is a pretty solid book. We follow the author through their complicated childhood and strict religious upbringing. It’s similar to “Educated” in that the family lives by their own rules, separate from society. The descriptions of nature and the idyllic parts of a childhood spent outside are gripping. Oh and don’t worry, there’s your good old classic crazy-strict religious group! If you’ve ever wanted to live off the grid (or at least want to know what it is like), read this. However, Overall, this is a pretty solid book. We follow the author through their complicated childhood and strict religious upbringing. It’s similar to “Educated” in that the family lives by their own rules, separate from society. The descriptions of nature and the idyllic parts of a childhood spent outside are gripping. Oh and don’t worry, there’s your good old classic crazy-strict religious group! If you’ve ever wanted to live off the grid (or at least want to know what it is like), read this. However, this book is full of trauma. Emotional and physical abuse, creepy older guys, you name it. This memoir didn’t quite have the same electric energy of “Educated” or “The Glass Castle”. Although I don’t want to discount the author’s struggles, it just felt like something was missing. We read these memoirs to peak into other’s lives, to act as rubberneckers at their pain and to experience a sense of empathy. I just didn’t feel connected to the author here. My biggest critique is the book jumped timelines frequently and often left me confused. I had to re-read sections multiple times just to understand what time period and who was being discussed. It definitely took me out of the book and made me reach for a glass of wine instead.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    The memoir of a woman who grew up in the Appalachian mountains, this is a powerful story of survival. Shawna moves with her family regularly as her parents renew their connections with The Body - a religious cult - and then leave it again to find work. The cycle repeats several times. Always dirt poor, often on the receiving end of harsh punishment, Shawna must navigate her path in a world that seems to constantly change, and one that offers very little opportunity for history not to continually The memoir of a woman who grew up in the Appalachian mountains, this is a powerful story of survival. Shawna moves with her family regularly as her parents renew their connections with The Body - a religious cult - and then leave it again to find work. The cycle repeats several times. Always dirt poor, often on the receiving end of harsh punishment, Shawna must navigate her path in a world that seems to constantly change, and one that offers very little opportunity for history not to continually repeat itself. We are given lots of information about the previous generations of Shawna's family, explanations of how and why they all came to be where they are now, and the lives that they are living. The book was definitely an eye opener, and I was impressed with Shawna's spirit. I found the book very choppy though, as the timeline wandered back and forth, and it was hard to follow with relative's story we were reading about and their connections to Shawna. It came over as far more disjointed than it needed to have been.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky Stanley

    With some of her early years spent in a cult in northern Minnesota, that in itself would be enough to make an interesting memoir. When Rodenberg's family moved from the cult's compound back to their kin in Kentucky, she lived out the rest of her childhood years in the unique culture of Appalachia. This book was hard to read at times, with tales of abuse and mental illness, but Rodenberg doesn't present her story with a "woe is me" attitude. The book seemed to lose steam a little bit as she enter With some of her early years spent in a cult in northern Minnesota, that in itself would be enough to make an interesting memoir. When Rodenberg's family moved from the cult's compound back to their kin in Kentucky, she lived out the rest of her childhood years in the unique culture of Appalachia. This book was hard to read at times, with tales of abuse and mental illness, but Rodenberg doesn't present her story with a "woe is me" attitude. The book seemed to lose steam a little bit as she entered her college years and early adulthood, but overall this was a very readable memoir. * Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Federica

    September 2019 I was in the Appalachian for a few days and something of the place really connected within me for some reason. Such beautiful places and memories! So I was really exited to read a book set there. This memoir is a power story of survival, Shawna goes through terrible experiences, all kinds of abuses (very hard to read!), but someway gets through it. Though the story is very engaging, I found the delivery a bit hard to follow, with a lot of going back and forth in the timeline. Thank September 2019 I was in the Appalachian for a few days and something of the place really connected within me for some reason. Such beautiful places and memories! So I was really exited to read a book set there. This memoir is a power story of survival, Shawna goes through terrible experiences, all kinds of abuses (very hard to read!), but someway gets through it. Though the story is very engaging, I found the delivery a bit hard to follow, with a lot of going back and forth in the timeline. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Young Shawna and her family ( sister, mother, and father) moved from place to place, due to poverty and an unfocused lifestyle. They lived with and without a religious sect in Minnesota, but mostly they resided in Kentucky. The book focused on the abnormal childhoods of Shawna and her mother. I would have preferred a chronological timeline in this book, but I found some of the anecdotes hard to believe even if the story had been chronological. The family bounced from one location to another, jus Young Shawna and her family ( sister, mother, and father) moved from place to place, due to poverty and an unfocused lifestyle. They lived with and without a religious sect in Minnesota, but mostly they resided in Kentucky. The book focused on the abnormal childhoods of Shawna and her mother. I would have preferred a chronological timeline in this book, but I found some of the anecdotes hard to believe even if the story had been chronological. The family bounced from one location to another, just as the memoir did. This book was provided by NetGalley as an advanced reader’s copy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Renee Hall

    I found this story very unique, interesting, important, and meaningful. Definitely not a story for the faint of heart. Often we forget how different other cultures or organizations live from us. I found that fact to be intriguing, purposeful, of great intentions but still real, raw, sad, and shameless. She made it through and I'm glad Shawna was able to tell her story. Thank you to the author and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this advance reader copy. #kin #netgalley I found this story very unique, interesting, important, and meaningful. Definitely not a story for the faint of heart. Often we forget how different other cultures or organizations live from us. I found that fact to be intriguing, purposeful, of great intentions but still real, raw, sad, and shameless. She made it through and I'm glad Shawna was able to tell her story. Thank you to the author and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this advance reader copy. #kin #netgalley #nonfiction #secret society

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linda Buhman

    The author writes well but the structure was disjointed and hard to follow at times. I hope the rushed amateurish ending is because I read an ARC, and they hadn’t finished. The changing pov’s were jarring; this is a memoir yet the author knows what her father did and thought? A good depiction though of how verbal, physical, and sexual abuse runs in some families and why it can be so hard to break that cycle.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark Chimel

    Ultimately I think there is a powerful story here, but the narrative was really all over the place. The book follows an alternating timeline structure, which is a very interesting choice for a memoir and it didn't land for me. I found the main timeline interesting, but the jumping around made it hard to follow. It definitely may work better for some. *I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Ultimately I think there is a powerful story here, but the narrative was really all over the place. The book follows an alternating timeline structure, which is a very interesting choice for a memoir and it didn't land for me. I found the main timeline interesting, but the jumping around made it hard to follow. It definitely may work better for some. *I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nona

    I am always interested in the lives of others and always amazed how people are able to share the parts of their lives that others have not seen. This soul-bearing memoir of Shawna Kay's childhood and young adulthood kept me turning the pages as I hurt and cheered for her. The good and bad parts of her family, the mountains, and her church caused pain, but also gave her the tools she needed to maneuver life. Excellent. I am always interested in the lives of others and always amazed how people are able to share the parts of their lives that others have not seen. This soul-bearing memoir of Shawna Kay's childhood and young adulthood kept me turning the pages as I hurt and cheered for her. The good and bad parts of her family, the mountains, and her church caused pain, but also gave her the tools she needed to maneuver life. Excellent.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susanne Cutler

    I received a free advanced readers copy of this book from Goodreads. I thought that though the memoir in itself was quite compelling, the way it was written was so disjointed and confusing. It jumped from different time periods and became frustrating to read. I didn't see the point of that. Half the time I didn't realize the author's age because it kept changing years. Quite a shame because it could have been so much better than it was. I received a free advanced readers copy of this book from Goodreads. I thought that though the memoir in itself was quite compelling, the way it was written was so disjointed and confusing. It jumped from different time periods and became frustrating to read. I didn't see the point of that. Half the time I didn't realize the author's age because it kept changing years. Quite a shame because it could have been so much better than it was.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Thanks #netgallery for the read. This memoir interested me as someone who grew up and lives in the South. The description says "rich in humanity, beauty and the complex knots of family love." I am still struggling to find the beauty and humanity in the story. I almost stopped midway through when I felt the story was moving slow. I gave it 3 stars. Thanks #netgallery for the read. This memoir interested me as someone who grew up and lives in the South. The description says "rich in humanity, beauty and the complex knots of family love." I am still struggling to find the beauty and humanity in the story. I almost stopped midway through when I felt the story was moving slow. I gave it 3 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily Vreken

    I love reading memoirs, and Kin was no exception. It gave me a wonderful picture into the life of Shawna Kay and her family. I could feel her deep loyalty to her family yet her desire for a different life. My one critique would be that it is not told in chronological order, and that was a bit confusing at times.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Owens

    Definitely a good book! Jumped around a bit but very interesting and honest portrayal of growing up in rural Appalachia in the 90’s

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  25. 5 out of 5

    arabella sturm

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cassidy Morgan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan F

  29. 5 out of 5

    Debra

  30. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

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