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Underwater Daughter: A Memoir of Survival and Healing
Deignan, Antonia
Deignan’s account of her life in Underwater Daughter draws readers in with the tragedies, triumphs, and traumas that she experienced in her childhood and early adulthood and weaves them into a story that is raw and meaningful. Deignan’s early adolescence was tangled in pain and confusion due to her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s inaction, traumatic experiences that shaped her connection to her body and how she experienced intimacy. In her teen years, she endured rape and harassment as a dancer. In search of healing, Deignan sought out therapy with her parents, and eventually quit smoking and purging when she became pregnant with her first child. Deignan went on to have four other children before a tragic bike accident forever altered her mind and body. This accident forced Deignan to re-examine her life, ultimately leading to reconciliation with her mother and iterations of her past selves.

Written in rich, insightful prose, Underwater Daughter showcases hard-won self knowledge and wisdom, while inviting readers to feel Deignan’s wounds and joys. Though bitingly descriptive of the traumas that Deignan endured, the story also movingly recounts Deignan’s rebirth, especially as she built her life anew with her own children, “produc[ing] a new language, a template that enabled a different, improved telling of history.” Every word and detail has been chosen with clear care and intent.

The memoir opens with a wrenching story of disconnection between mind and body, a vital theme that recurs throughout, as she finds control of her body first through the art of dance, and then through the birthing of her children, and ultimately faces new challenges after the accident. It is through these wounds that she discovers that all of us “are keeping score, on our knees, on a scorecard,” with “trauma wisdom in our cells, in our bloodstreams, and in our precious hearts.” Underwater Daughter offers refuge for all who carry trauma in their bodies and seek rebirth, awareness, and hope.

Takeaway: Rich prose and healing truths distinguish this standout memoir of trauma and rebirth.

Great for fans of: Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A