Darling Rose Gold, Stephanie Wrobel: A Review
I knew little about this book aside from the favorable Twitter responses and the beautiful cover before diving in.
Patty Watts spent five years in prison for aggravated child abuse and is now about to be released into the care of the same daughter who put here there: Rose Gold. What follows is a psychological tug-of-war between past and present, mother and daughter, that spans abuse, parasitic relationships, and the complexity of forgiveness.
I never watched that Hulu special about Gypsy Rose and her mother. Child abuse narratives are tough to read, but that one hit a nerve I didn't want to explore. However, Darling Rose Gold explores exactly that, told in alternating POVs over years, and I was compelled to finish.
Wrobel's narrative voices are well-executed and authentic, a difficult hurdle to master. Both were sufficiently creepy and disturbing, at times self-aware and others, utterly oblivious. Their back-and-forth descriptions of events allowed for a quick read with the twists escalating from tiny blips to all-out explosions. Sensational is a word that comes to mind, and while I haven't decided if this is a good or bad thing, Darling Rose Gold pulls some important issues about motherhood, mental health, and recovery. I think what affected me most in this book was how truly convinced Patty was that what she was doing was not only right, but justified, a no-brainer. Something any good mother would do. Perhaps this was more jarring to me than to others from my own personal experience, but Patty's character was horrific, a direct descendant of Annie Wilkes or Carrie's mom. Between the mental and emotional manipulation to years of physical abuse, there is nothing redeeming about her character, and her misguided attempts at convincing her internal audience that she's done no wrong is baffling and heart-wrenching.
Neither, though, did I find myself rooting for Rose Gold, and I think this is where some of the mixed reviews come into play. As a survivor, she's given empathy, sympathy, compassion, but no one has ever shown her how to form healthy relationships. From the narrative, it seems that she doesn't receive any psychological counseling, which was shocking to me considering the extent of the abuse and the public outcry against her mother. Essentially, she has no coping mechanisms, no ability to form connections with others, and is constantly plotting while trying to separate her own voice from that of her mother's. The constant reminder that her physical appearance is mousy and her teeth are rotting--all of these things imply a desperate need for some sort of intervention or evaluation, and yet she's isolated, growing incrementally resentful, and learns that the only way to get what she wants is to manipulate others using her sickness.
Overall, I thought Darling Rose Gold was a sensational read with twisted characters, but there were some major issues I couldn't see past that kept me from falling in love.