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A Rose Fit For a King

April 29, 2004

I’ve been reading Rose Madder again.  I don’t remember the first time I read it.  But I recall quite vividly the day that I picked it up for the second time.  It was a used bookstore, one of the many here in town.  I remember standing there amoung the books and thinking that I needed something, anything, to take my mind off of the horror that Himself was putting me through.  Just something to distract me.  And there it was.

For the non-Stephen King fans amoung us, I’ll be brief and leave out the King-ian twists to the ending.  Rose Madder is the story of a woman who, after 14 years of abuse at the hands of her insane husband Norman, walks away.  Through flashbacks, memories, and broken narrative from various characters the reader is slowly able to piece together the horror of 14 years in the haze of an abusive marriage.  The first time I ever read it, I was just a reader.

The second time, I was Rose.

Though my Norman was never as cruel or insane as the character in the book, I understood how she felt.  And that book came to be my lifeline in a drifting world.  Not because the monsters were especially creepy, or because the characters were especially vivid.  I think it was in Stephen King’s “On Writing” where he mentions that he doesn’t particularly like Rose Madder very much.  He thinks that it is weak, and I have to agree.  Except for one thing.

The message rings true.

Not, mind you, that a monster will eat your abusive husband and make all your problems go away.  But that it’s not your fault.  In the brutally honest language that Stephen King is famous for, the mentality of an abused woman is laid out, sliced to ribbons, and held up to the light.  And through that transparent film of gore, you can see how she heals.  How you can heal.
I’ve read it several times since that second time.  The same book, now well worn despite how new it looked when I bought it in that used book store.  Usually I’ll read it when I need reminding.  Of what, I haven’t quite yet figured out.  But I know when I start reading it, that something in me is calming, settling, lying down for a little while.  I hear the messages repeated by the women who make up the greater portion of the story, and I listen.

And sometimes, I heal.

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