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
Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite
The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor’s Story of Storms and Reconstruction by Daniel R. Mathews is an inspiring true story of a boy and how he overcame his past. The Demons of Plainville is a first-person autobiographical narrative by Daniel Mathews. He tells us about his childhood, beginning with one of his earliest memories of abuse, both verbal and physical, at age eight at the hands of his addicted, mentally ill mother. Raised in Massachusetts mainly by his mother and grandparents, Daniel’s childhood is bleak. His mother believes in the Satanic Bible and deals in Satanic masses and occult practices. She also emotionally abuses Daniel by falsely accusing him of stealing, among other things, and punishing him for it. At the age of eleven, Daniel’s father suddenly appears out of nowhere and takes Daniel to live with him. For a while, things seem to improve for Daniel as he bonds with his step-brother, Sam. However the cycle of physical abuse continues, this time from his father. As he shuttles back and forth between various homes and is abused and neglected, Daniel is also dealing with his own homosexuality and the challenges of fitting in and finding his identity in a society that is often openly homophobic. In the end, this is a story of survival and courage as one man battles the demons that threatened him, and emerges stronger and wiser.
The Demons of Plainville by Daniel R. Mathews is an inspiring true story and I found Daniel’s frank, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style of writing to be very engaging. I got the sense that Daniel truly is a survivor and wants to genuinely offer hope to other people, and children who have been neglected or abused, that a better life is possible. The issues of homophobia and prejudice in today’s society are addressed as well. I hope that reading a book like this will initiate discussion and, hopefully, more widespread acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.