Review: Shawna Kay Rodenberg reveals the complicated lives of rural-born women in ‘Kin’

Contributed Photo by Joshua Lucca / Shawna Kay Rodenberg

"KIN: A MEMOIR" by Shawna Kay Rodenberg (Bloomsbury, 352 pages, $18).

Shawna Kay Rodenberg's family moved a lot when she was growing up. From Seco, Kentucky, to Grand Marias, Minnesota, to Duluth, Indiana, Rodenberg's memoir "Kin" recounts their travels, detailing her own story and her family's as well.

With a narrative so complex that one occasionally wishes for the aid of a family tree or a detailed timeline, "Kin" shifts between Rodenberg's early years and the early years of her parents and close relatives. In the prologue, set in 2017, Rodenberg describes smuggling "two ounces of primo marijuana" to her father in Seco while simultaneously serving as a local tour guide for a CBS crew in town to craft "a news segment on the proposition of school choice in Appalachia."

From here, we are whisked back in time to 1978 in Grand Marias, where young Rodenberg and her family are living on a farm, practicing a frugality so extreme that it resembles voluntary poverty.