By Delilah S. Dawson
Rating: 4/5 Stairs
So…I sometimes like to start my reviews off with the first paragraph or page of the book to give readers a feel for the writing style and story. I need to start this review off with a warning. Ms. Dawson begins the book with an author’s note:
The Violence deals with themes of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and includes animal death and graphic violence. Some of these scenes may be distressing for some readers. Writing this book–and examining these themes–has been part of my own healing journey.The Violence
The author’s note goes on to briefly explain Ms. Dawson’s personal experience growing up with an emotionally and physically abusive father, and specifically notes “Chelsea’s nights in the kitchen are based on what my mother and I experienced at his hands.”
I appreciated the upfront warning from the author. Seriously – be prepared when you pick up this book. While some pieces did feel like a dystopian fantasy novel, many other aspects are all too real and difficult to read. This isn’t the entire novel (although the repercussions of abuse are felt throughout the entire story), and I felt like the graphic violence toned down as the story moved on.
The Violence takes place in the near future – 2025. There’s a new pandemic hitting the world, aptly named the Violence. They don’t know how it spreads, or who is infected until it’s too late. There’s a vaccine, but it is ridiculously expensive and only the wealthiest can access it. The Violence is really a backdrop to the main story, which is the journey of three women – specifically three generations – each one trying to overcome her own obstacles and find her way.
Part one was a slow build up, and I think the most difficult to read. From the introduction, we know that the subject of abuse is a very personal one from Ms. Dawson, and she draws from her own experience to write pieces of the narrative that chronicles Chelsea’s abusive marriage that we see from both Chelsea’s point of view and her daughter Ella’s. We also find seventeen-year-old Ella in a relationship that eerily echos her parents. In addition, we’ve got Chelsea’s narcissistic mother Patricia. She’s fought hard for her “perfect” life and has little sympathy for anyone else.
After part one, hang on for a wild ride as the Violence continues to spread. Chelsea, Ella, and Patricia each find themselves in uncharted territory, facing their own demons as they struggle to survive in this new pandemic. I don’t want to say too much and spoil the plot. While sometimes the story felt like it was going a little over the top, I appreciated the women’s struggles and their story arcs to overcome their personal demons. I enjoyed each of these three characters in their own way – even unlikeable Patricia grew on me as her barriers broke down and her layers peeled away.
While overall The Violence is a dystopian/sci-fi read, you can tell that the story is also a personal journey for the author, and ultimately the tale of breaking the cycle of abuse.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book for review.