Rose Madder – Stephen King

Rose Daniels is a battered woman. Married to her husband, Norman, for fourteen years—since she was eighteen—she has spent almost half of her life justifying her husband’s horrid actions to herself. Until today.

It’s a single spot of blood on the sheets that spurs Rosie to action. Looking at that tiny drop of blood, the back-of-her-mind dread that Norman will kill her one day is suddenly superseded by an even worse thought: what if he doesn’t kill her? What if she lives out the rest of her natural life at Norman’s abusive hands—the hands that have pummeled her from day one, the hands that caused her miscarriage, the hands that are shockingly adept at hitting without bruising?

Without stopping to think—she knows that taking any time to think about what she’s doing will be even more dangerous than leaving—Rosie takes her purse and her husband’s bank card and leaves her home, determined to go far enough away that Norman will never find her.

But Norman, a police officer, has more than enough resources at his disposal, and he has an uncanny ability to get inside people’s heads. Rosie knows this, and despite finding a new life, new friends, and a new job, she knows she can’t hide forever. And this time she knows that if Norman finds her, he won’t hold back.

I honestly liked Rose Madder a lot more than I expected I would. I don’t do well with depictions of extreme domestic violence, but thankfully, most of it wasn’t super explicit, more hinted-at. But it was still…rough. It’s just so hard for me to imagine someone who is supposed to love you and cherish you being able to…betray you like that. It’s not an easy thing to think about, and certainly not an easy thing to read about.

But I just loved Rosie so much. She doesn’t have any idea how strong she is until she’s tested beyond what anyone should ever have to endure. But she’s a survivor, and she’s smarter than she thinks she is—which, thankfully, most other people in her life recognize even when she can’t. She finally realizes what she has to do, and she sucks it up and she does it.

It’s said that Rosie is King’s most well-developed female protagonist. As most of King’s protagonists are male, it’s not exactly a hard title to come by, but I think I would say that Rosie is one of his most developed protagonists ever. He captures the mindset of an abuse victim shockingly well, even more poignant for the fact that Rose Madder is 20 years old.

Rose Madder has a very different feel from most of Stephen King’s books, but it’s incredibly moving and it kept me hooked the entire time. There was one night where I tried to stay up to finish it, but I got to midnight with almost 100 pages left, and just couldn’t stay up any longer. I wouldn’t recommend doing this, as I had really intense nightmares that night, but I would absolutely recommend reading this book—just, you know, maybe not right before bed.

A


There’s been a lot of conversation surrounding the topic of domestic violence in the wake of high-profile celebrity cases in the past few years: Rihanna/Chris Brown, Ray/Janay Rice, Adrian Peterson. It’s been a long time coming, and for it to finally be in the forefront of our minds is the first step to eliminating it. But it’s no secret that we have a long way to go, and I want to use this review to remind everyone of a few things we should all remember about domestic abuse:

  • Domestic abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. Some bruises don’t show on the surface. Not all abuse is physical.
  • Abusers often “gaslight” their victims by making them think that they’re crazy, that their emotions are abnormal, and/or that things didn’t happen the way the victim remembers them. This is part of what makes it so hard for victims to leave.
  • Just because a couple looks happy on the outside, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something going on behind the scenes. Don’t assume a marriage is happy from its public face.
  • Though victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly female (or children), men can be victims, too. If you know a man who claims to be the victim of domestic abuse, don’t dismiss his complaints as “unmanly” or tell him to “suck it up.” There’s a reason that men hardly ever report being abused.
  • If you know someone who is being abused, or you are being abused, there are many resources at your disposal. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE. Here’s a list of additional resources you can contact.

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