Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: domestic abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, gas lighting, pet death (graphic), violence against animals, threats of suicide
Three generations of woman undergo a journey of healing as a new pandemic sweeps the world. It’s called The Violence, and it makes some people snap and make them kill the nearest living object near them. But there are other forms of violence, namely in the cruelty of the men around grandmother Patricia, mother Chelsea, and teenager Ella. In an effort to survive more common terror, these three go on their own character journeys to find their own strength, whether it’s in the form of tenderness for a grandchild, the improv and support from a wrestling troupe, or getting separated and striking on out on your own in the more desperate circumstances imaginable.
Heart-wrenching and cathartic, with some delightful moments in the form of self-discovery via wrestling and women surviving together and individually.
The book starts off with a trigger and content warning for the story to come, and I highly recommend heeding it. Dawson writes with a precision and lens which does not shirk away from the brutality that touches every aspect of the narrative. There are even segments from the POV of the abusive husband, David, which, to me were among the most harrowing. But one thing that I also wanted to highlight is the violence against pets and pet death. I considered highlighting the specific moments, but to ignore all the mentions, you would miss out on pieces of character development. So, if that is not for you, then I recommend skipping this one.
But in the darkest, there is so much light. Dawson infuses wit and dark humor to help both the reader and characters cope with the impossibility of certain circumstances. I mean, the opening image of the book is one person bludgeoning another to death in the a Costco with a bottle of Thousand Island dressing. It’s funny, despite it being really dark.
In that vein, there’s so much love for the state of Florida, even if it’s tough at times. There is pointed social commentary on the trials and pitfalls of transitioning from one class to another. In addition to awareness of the interpersonal, there’s an examination of society at large, which stings at times given the mirror the new pandemic on the heels of the (still very much ongoing) COVID pandemic.
Unlike several survival stories featuring a lone hero, the sense of community throughout this story is incredible. Though each journey takes place individually, none of the women are an island and none of the women have to face the horrors on their own. One of my favorite sequences have got to be Chelsea’s training montage with the wrestling troupe. It’s fun, but it’s also so cathartic. And the way it fits into the climax had me cheering out loud.
The epilogue is tender and while not quite a happily ever after, there’s a clear path to healing. There’s so much hope despite the mire that came before.