Book Review | Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Rose Gold was a sick child. Wheelchair-bound, chronically underweight and unable to go to mainstream school because of a mysterious ‘chromosomal abnormality’. Of course, Rose Gold wasn’t actually sick. Her mother, driven by an obsession with control and misguided devotion, poisoned her daily until she was in her late teens. Such kind of insidious evil is not for the faint of heart – especially as it leaves Rose Gold severely emaciated and stunted in her growth.

Now Rose Gold is in her early twenties, with a young baby, and her mother’s prison term is up. In a decision that leaves the small community of Deadwick, Illinois incredulous, she invites her mother to come and live with them while she gets back on her feet. She’s been manipulated and abused by her mother her whole life – is it possible she’s still under her spell?

‘All I’ve ever wanted, as a mother, is to be needed. The first few years of your child’s life, no one is more important to her than you, not even her father. That biological imperative demands to be satisfied, over and over and over. And then your child turns ten or twelve or eighteen, and suddenly you’re no longer critical. How are we supposed to cope? We mothers give up everything for our children, until they decide they don’t want our everything anymore.’

The narrative flips between the point of view of Rose Gold in the past and her mother Patty in the present, the two narratives working their way towards each other as we discover the depths to which they’ll go to settle a score. Rose Gold isn’t your typical victim – she’s gone through hell, but she’s not the butter-wouldn’t-melt angel that these characters are sometimes portrayed to be. Friendless and decidedly at odds with the rest of society, while we feel compassion because of her traumatic childhood, she isn’t a likeable character. In fact, it’s hard to root for anyone in this book – none of the characters are in the least bit likeable. It’s an interesting take on the victim narrative, but it does run the risk of reader apathy towards the eventual outcome.

There were some interesting secondary narrative threads that added dimension to the story and kept me reading to discover how they would end – Rose Gold’s ‘online boyfriend’ who she’s never met in real life, and the discovery of her long-lost father who abandoned her pregnant mother two decades ago. But there were missed opportunities to explore the psychological causes and consequences of Munchausen by proxy, and the direction of the narrative took a predictable turn when you come to figure out the puzzle pieces and character motivations. A pacy read – I finished it in a couple of days – but ultimately not as satisfying or well developed as it could have been.


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