The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson
The Violence is the latest book by New York Times bestselling author Delilah S. Dawson, and it is an emotional rollercoaster. It’s captivating and brutal, and the subject matter can be – as stated in her Author’s Note – “distressing for some readers.” I was one of those readers. “The Violence deals with themes of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse,” she explains, and I was definitely forced to relive past traumas. My heart raced and my emotions raged while reading, but the characters were sympathetic and engaging, and I needed to know what happened to them.
Dawson crafted a three generations of damaged women, all suffering in silence, each struggling with their own private demons. She placed them in the wealthy suburbs in a post-Covid version of Florida, showed us their worst character flaws, and then set a new pandemic free to rage among them. This new pandemic causes sudden, violent rages, and in the beginning of the outbreak, the government collects these infected individuals so they can’t harm others. Abusive men caught attacking women they love could be theoretically be considered infected with the Violence…
The Violence is expertly written, skipping street names and details such as house colors, subdivision titles, and store names, but focusing on a tiny corner shop at one intersection that all three main characters stop at throughout the book. It starts out as a little yellow shack with a scrolling digital sign implying men should buy new floors to make their wives happy. By the end of the book, a character sees the shack under new management and thinks about thunderstorms bringing rainbows. It’s one of my favorite lines of the book, actually.
Dawson manages to convey that very real fear of strange men who may or may not hit on you while you’re out in public alone, and how powerful a simple hug can be after being isolated and alone for too long. The Violence is a powerful book and it is a memorable one. Dawson carefully balanced the tension of the book so that there are beautiful moments amid the darkness.
There’s no way to predict how it will make you feel if you are sensitive to the subject material and/or have been in an abusive relationship. I needed several Xanax and the love and support of my wonderful husband to make it through the book, and writing this review, because of my previous marriage. Counseling and therapy helps, but so do prescription medications and support systems. I am fortunate to have all of the above.
To quote the Author’s Note once more: “If you’re experiencing abuse, please seek support. You are not alone.”
The Violence book design credit: Caroline Cunningham.
Advance Reading Copy provided by Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley at my request.
I also preordered the audiobook from Audible.
Audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber.