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Reviews of Fruit of the Dead by Rachel Lyon

Fruit of the Dead

A Novel

by Rachel Lyon

Fruit of the Dead by Rachel Lyon X
Fruit of the Dead by Rachel Lyon
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2024, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

An electric contemporary reimagining of the myth of Persephone and Demeter set over the course of one summer on a lush private island, about addiction and sex, family and independence, and who holds the power in a modern underworld.

Camp counselor Cory Ansel, eighteen and aimless, afraid to face her high-strung single mother in New York, is no longer sure where home is when the father of one of her campers offers an alternative. The CEO of a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, Rolo Picazo is middle-aged, divorced, magnetic. He is also intoxicated by Cory. When Rolo proffers a childcare job (and an NDA), Cory quiets an internal warning and allows herself to be ferried to his private island. Plied with luxury and opiates manufactured by his company, she continues to tell herself she's in charge. Her mother, Emer, head of a teetering agricultural NGO, senses otherwise. With her daughter seemingly vanished, Emer crosses land and sea to heed a cry for help she alone is convinced she hears.

Alternating between the two women's perspectives, Rachel Lyon's Fruit of the Dead incorporates its mythic inspiration with a light touch and devastating precision. The result is a tale that explores love, control, obliteration, and America's own late capitalist mythos. Lyon's reinvention of Persephone and Demeter's story makes for a haunting and ecstatic novel that vibrates with lush abandon. Readers will not soon forget it.

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Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Fruit of the Dead reimagines the myth of Persephone, goddess of spring, and Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Discuss the parallels between the novel and the original myth as well as the differences. Did you notice other references to Greek mythology in the novel?
  2. The narration alternates between the close third-person perspective, with Cory's narrative, and the first-person voice of her mother, Emer. How does this perspective-swapping affect your understanding of the story? Of the two key characters?
  3. There is a beautiful poetic quality to the chapter titles. Discuss how they add to your interpretation of what happens within those sections. Are there hidden meanings to glean?
  4. The novel opens with a summer camp performance of The ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Considering how much time we spend with Emer, the combination of her self-effacement and sanctimonious attitude could become grating, but Lyon's exquisite, deft language, endlessly clever but never just for cleverness's sake, carries the character in her desperation. As Fruit of the Dead is a retelling of Greek mythology — the story of the harvest goddess Demeter, whose daughter Persephone is kidnapped by the god of the underworld, Hades — Emer's qualities serve a purpose. Rolo and Emer are markedly different in their relationships to Cory, but flipsides of the same capitalist coin, effectively both deities of the modern world, beings who control the lives of others...continued

Full Review Members Only (926 words)

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Elle
A Greek myth retelling! Wonders—and risks—abound.

Lilith Magazine
Epic… Greek mythology enthusiasts will especially fall for this modern retelling of the myth of Persephone and Demeter.

New York Times Book Review
Superb... refreshing... Lyon twists the tale just enough to needle our conceptions of coercion and desire.

Oprah Daily
Alternating between the perspective of mother and daughter, we can indulge in the full thrill of being young, reckless, and newly independent—and the full propulsive terror of being older and knowing better. Though Lyon pulls the bones of the story from ancient mythology, the book's characters are intensely—at times achingly—human and its plot is urgently contemporary.

People
Twisty and unsettling.

Town and Country
A mesmerizing, fantastic retelling of an ancient myth.

WBUR.org
Gorgeous prose that's so vivid and luminous it contrasts starkly with the darkness of the subject matter. Every sentence is a feast.

Booklist (starred review)
In lush, hallucinatory prose, Lyon narrates from the perspectives of both mother and daughter and evokes the classic myth without distracting readers from the striking contemporary setting and subject matter.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lyon's skillful and luscious prose encourages empathy... an affecting novel with touches of the fantastical, weaving explorations of power, youth, wealth, and familial love.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Irresistible... brilliantly told... an affecting, engrossing, and resonant tale about lost innocence and the enduring bond between a mother and daughter.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Demeter and Persephone

White sculpture depicting Persephone grappling with HadesRachel Lyon's novel Fruit of the Dead is based on the story of Demeter and Persephone from Greek mythology. In the original story, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, is devastated when her daughter Persephone is kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld, who intends to make her his wife. Demeter's grief is so great that it affects the growth of crops and plants in nature. She appeals to the god Zeus, who asks Hades to let Persephone go. Hades agrees to this on the condition that Persephone hasn't eaten any of the food he has given her, but Persephone has (wouldn't you know it) eaten seeds from a pomegranate. As a compromise, Zeus and Hades decide that she will stay in the underworld for one-third of the year, and that she can return to Earth ...

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Read-Alikes

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