Rose Madder by Stephen King

An old oil painting wrapped in ripped brown paper.
A romance starts with an oil painting

Stephen King begins Rose Madder at the end of a marriage.

One day Rosie Daniels can’t take any more. She takes her husband’s debit card, painfully walks to the bus station, and rides away from the husband who repeatedly had put her in the hospital.

Her husband, Norman, is a cop. He’s really good at finding people.

Rosie gets off the bus in a city in the next time zone. She has no family, no friends, no job skills.

She has to find a way to survive until she can build a new life for herself.

Rosie finds friends, work, and a decent guy at supersonic speed.

That story alone would be enough for most novelists to tackle. As he did in his 1994 novel Gerald’s Game, King makes his heroine’s situation worse by bringing in a supernatural element. In Rose Madder, that element is a painting of another world into which Rosie is literally drawn.

Had King confined his tale to the real world, the story would have been terrifying.  The addition of the supernatural dilutes the story’s impact with fake gore and glosses over the long-term physical and psychological effects of abuse.

Rose Madder does no favors to readers or abused women.

Rose Madder by Stephen King
Viking. ©1995. 420 p.
1995 bestseller #7; my grade: B-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Prince of Tides novel

Dust jacket of “Prince of Tides” shows marshes as storm rolls in
South Carolina tidal marshes

The Prince of Tides is one of those rare novels capable of making a poor Southern family interesting without first making them rich.

Pat Conroy sets his tale on the South Carolina coast, home to the Wingo family.

Tom Wingo’s marriage to a doctor has been rocky since Tom was fired as a high school football coach.

When Tom’s twin sister, Savanna, a poet, attempts suicide, Tom flies to in New York City to be with her.

From what Savanna has said in the hospital and from her poetry, psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein senses deep trauma.

Since Savanna refuses to see Tom, Lowenstein asks Tom to meet with her regularly to fill in the gaps in Savanna’s history.

Those sessions allow Conroy to shift readers’ attention between past and present.

In bits and pieces, Tom lays out the Wingo family history from World War II to the 1980s. Some of the bits are horrific, but Conroy renders none salacious.

Conroy has a keen instinct for the details that make places and people pop off the page with cinematic clarity.

The Wingos are a messed-up family, but finally the twins and their older brother, Luke, mature enough to forgive their parents “for not having been born perfect.”

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Houghton Mifflin Co., ©1986. 567 p.
1986 bestseller #9; my grade: A

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni