Friday, April 8, 2016

"Drowning" - portrayal of domestic violence by Katelin Maloney

Rebecca has simple dreams. A promotion. Children. A happy marriage. But can she have it with Mitch?
Though she carefully keeps secrets to guard her safety, her marriage to Mitch, a successful doctor, is brutal, and his abuse is escalating. A promotion at the bank could be the answer to her prayers, but Mitch has different plans for her life.

Ultimately, Rebecca must face her own inner demons before she can act. Will she be able to find her former, stronger self before Mitch destroys her completely? 

My thoughts
Every abusive jerk has a sob story. Sometimes the story is made up (my dog ate my grandma).  But it doesn't have to be made up. Very often it's true (baby sister died of cancer). But that story is always a powerful tool in neutralizing the victim's intention to stand up for herself. "He is rough with me because he had a rough childhood." That's a very common justification that abused wives and girlfriends use to justify their partners' behavior.

It's amazing that with so many books and movies depicting the horrors of domestic violence, this social phenomenon still exists. It's not like help is not available. The issue of domestic violence is no longer swept under the rug. And yet, why do so many women still fall into that trap? Many experts believe, and I agree with them, that the abuser and the victim find each other. One cannot exist without the other. There has to be a willing victim who will enable the abuser. In Maloney's novel Drowning, Mitch and Rebecca are such a couple. Mitch is a charismatic young doctor with a very dark and ugly side that nobody knows about. Rebecca is an eager-to-please and compliant wife, who struggles to stay afloat financially and professionally despite her husband's attempts to curb her autonomy. But Mitch is a clever sadist. He knows when to back off. He will drive Rebecca to the breaking point with his bullying and criticism, but then give her a pair of amethyst earrings and retell her the same sob story about his baby sister dying of cancer.  And that pretty much resets the mechanism to square one.

I have to warn you - and this is NOT a criticism - this novel is not particularly intricate from the literary standpoint. It's very bare bones in its structure. You are not going to see any fancy intricate techniques.  The most fanciful component, I would have to say, is the dream sequence. But this particular novel does not need to be terribly original. What the author describes is very trivial. Even if you have not been in an abusive relationship yourself, you probably know someone who has. You will sit and nod through many of the passages, muttering, "Yes, yes, yes, this sounds familiar." You will also wonder if you regular physician has a dark side. Very often domestic tyrants are not from the lower socio-economic strata. Educated, charming, high-achieving people can be absolute monsters. The novel sheds the light on the science of abuse. Believe it or not, there is a formula, a set of symptoms, or red flags if you will, to watch out for.

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