Zeus is a blatant womanizer, Demeter needs anger management therapy, and Hades is too hungry for power—do these sound like “celestial beings” or fallible humans? The notion that the gods created humans in their own likeness receives serious blows of practical reasoning in Radiant Darkness, as Persephone herself finds out. However, even though Whitman contemplates the differences between these so-called “deities” and the human race, it is obvious that her take on the myth does not focus so much on the abstract as on the essentials. Persephone’s thoughtful first-person narration takes in so much from her surroundings and her love for plants; her difficult relationship with her mother and her complicated love for Hades parallel the constant struggle between life and death, mortality and immortality being the two main themes of Radiant Darkness.
Unfortunately, no details about Persephone’s childhood and adolescence mean that there is nothing that physically distinguishes immortals from mortals in the novel. Individual powers and not dying are the only concepts that Whitman uses to outline the divinity of a god or goddess; the “aging process” is strangely disregarded, although the author mentions that Persephone’s physical appearance changes from girl to young woman and her abilities strengthen over time. It is also a little disappointing that Whitman only illustrates some of the major deities of Greek mythology like Zeus, Hermes, and Hades, ignoring the rest. Persephone herself is a creative character, loving passionately and thinking deeply. Her love for Hades seems inexplicable at first, confusing and illogical. Does she love this attractive god only because he is the first man she has ever met in her life?
To be continued…
Radiant Darkness is available in local libraries and bookstores in Fresno, and online.