There are challenges in creating a memoir that aren’t inherent in a novel format: for one thing, exploring one’s childhood and growth is, of necessity, a revealing approach that exposes one’s world to strangers. For another, it incorporates a sense of psychological introspection mixed with world events (here, this world is the family structure and its choices and encounters) that pair raw detail with social interactions that constantly challenge and change all involved.
Set in the fictional town of Plainville but blending in real facets of Daniel R. Mathews’ life, The Demons of Plainville is a saga replete with struggle, ‘demons’, hard truths and harder realizations that lead to real change – and the latter is at the heart of any confrontation with demons, but particularly the lives presented in The Demons of Plainville.
Be forewarned: there are graphic descriptions of blood nightmares and descriptions of both schoolboy/camp encounters and home situations that candidly portray the roots of psychological hardship and struggle: “The situation at home continued in an endless downward spiral. My mother became increasingly hostile and condemning of my existence. She constantly grounded me for something, usually stealing money out of her purse. She grew more insistent about my mental illness, believing I was sick somehow and was just a bad seed bent on making her miserable. She even called me retarded on several occasions, pointing out my effeminate nature. My inability to remember the thefts she accused me of proved I would need institutionalization eventually. Was she right? I did feel sick in many ways. An almost nauseous feeling that didn’t go away became acute when I rode the bus home from school and especially whenever she called me in the room. I felt a growing hopelessness; I could not escape from the hole I’d fallen into.”
From Scouting and camp experiences that give rise to special challenges as he faces expelling the son of his scoutmaster to paying the price for doing the right thing (“Sometimes doing the right thing carries a price. I had already understood this, but that didn’t make the situation easier. This was my ultimate final exam as a Scout and it proved I was capable of standing up for myself. I had self-respect and integrity, and I was not going to let anyone take that away. This was a valuable lesson because the limits of my endurance were about to be tested.”), The Demons of Plainville covers many kinds of demons, from childhood challenges to coming of age, adult approaches to life, and storms of emerging sexuality and friendships that evolve against the rejection of both mother and father.
From flying planes to homosexuality and recovering from family demons, The Demons of Plainville isn’t about falling to earth: it’s about the process of learning to soar with whatever life hands out.
In this, it’s a memoir that, more than most, charts the process and the key moments that lend towards movement towards the light and positive rather than succumbing to the forces that create demons.
Reviewer: D. Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review