Shocking, disturbing and empowering. Those are the first three words I think of after reading “Rose Madder.”
Released in 1995, this 420-page novel is about Rose Daniels and her efforts to restart her life after running away from her extremely abusive husband, Norman Daniels.
Stephen King wrote a surprisingly real novel here, one that definitely hits your feels, and really makes you understand Rosie’s plight. The poor woman was beaten so much and then finally one day she just says, “I’ve had enough.”
King writes entire sections of this novel from the perspective of Norman and oh my god are these creepy. Seriously disturbing and unsettling.
There are also parts where we get some views of another world and some wacky things and even some Dark Tower nods, which is always fun.
Below is a slightly spoilery synopsis, so beware.
Rose leaves the only home she has known since marrying Norman, steals his debit card, and takes a bus as far as it will take her. She finds solace in a battered woman’s home where she makes many new friends and gets a job as a maid at a hotel.
One day she walks into an antique shop to sell her wedding ring and ends up trading it for a painting that really caught her eye. This painting ends up being a doorway of sorts… I’ll get there in a minute. Another store patron offers her a job as an audio book reader.
She moves into her own apartment, turns into a very successful audio book voice and starts dating Bill, the man who ran the antique shop. Rosie has totally turned her life around and the story is truly uplifting. That is, until we read Norman’s perspective.
Whole sections of the novel are written in italics and from Norman’s perspective. These parts are extremely disturbing and unsettling.
Norman is on the hunt. He is very angry that his docile wife left him and stole money from him to do it. Norman is a detective, so he puts his skills to the task of finding Rose. He is a sick and twisted individual, but he is smart… scary smart.
Norman literally kills his way to Rose. he takes his time, finds out where she is, and strikes. King writes a very intense and heart pounding fight to the finish. It’s a serious page turner.
After thwarting Norman, Rosie and Bill become married, have a daughter and live a happy life. One of the rare happy endings for a King novel, but the flow of the story called for it.
The painting! How could I forget about the painting! So, remember way back 6 paragraphs ago when I mentioned the painting being a doorway? This was a very cool aspect to this novel, an added little wrinkle you could say.
Rose one night discovers this painting is a doorway. She walks through and finds herself in another world. This act is very reminiscent of some events in The Dark Tower series. Here, Rose saves a baby from a Bull in a maze. A bit like the Greek mythological Minotaur.
The bull and painting come into play with Norman later, but I don’t want to spoil that for you… it is crazy!
Anyway, read this novel. I went into it not really knowing what to expect and I think that added to my surprise. It was shockingly amazing, and I highly recommend it.