Written by Stephanie Wrobel — Teenager Rose Gold Watts has spent much of her life in a wheelchair. She’s been in and out of hospital, had more tests than you can shake a stick at, and is cared for by her loving mother Patty.
She knows her mother loves her and is grateful for the care and attention she receives from Patty. But when they finally get a computer, an innocent late night conversation in a chat room sends Rose Gold’s world crashing down. Who knew turkey and broccoli didn’t taste like maple syrup? Not Rose Gold, that’s for certain. And as she begins to explore her mother’s overweening protectiveness, Rose Gold realises she is being poisoned. It seems like a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
The eureka moment leads to Patty being charged with aggravated child abuse and handed a prison sentence. Rose Gold testified against her in court and the case made headlines worldwide. Now Poisonous Patty is due to be released – and who is outside the jail, waiting for her? Why it’s Rose Gold and her baby, Adam. Yep, a lot has happened in the past five years.
Those occurrences – and there are many – are gradually revealed as the narration swings between Patty and Rose Bold like a ping pong ball being batted by two particularly good players. Rose Gold’s story really begins on the first day of her mother’s imprisonment, while Patty’s takes its first tentative steps upon her release. She expects her daughter to be the same pliant, easily led sucker that she last saw in court. But Rose Gold has changed.
The most obvious difference is that Rose Gold is now the doting mother of a young baby. She and the father aren’t together and she relies on an old friend of her mother’s for child care while she goes to work in a crummy electrical store. Mrs Stone blanks Patty, who soon realises that everyone in the small town is against her. Including her daughter. Rose Gold may be offering her mother a place to live in the dead end little US town of Deadwick, but why did she buy the childhood home where Patty was abused? The ramshackle house holds way too many secrets.
Reading The Recovery of Rose Gold (published as Darling Rose Gold in the US) is like going on a nature ramble. On the surface, everything looks pretty and calm, but turn over a few stones and you begin to see the world from a completely different angle. This is an ingeniously plotted book which keeps you on your toes from beginning to end.
At the heart of it all is Rose Gold, so badly treated as a child and now suffering the consequences. She’s stick thin, with terribly rotten teeth, but behind that fragile facade is a young woman who isn’t about to go down without a fight. There are moments when you feel close to tears because of the way she was treated in the past and even in the present day she has to deal with abuse and cruelty, both from strangers and from people she loves.
Take it with a pinch of salt though, because this pair are unreliable narrators par excellence, their strings manipulated by an author who has a fair few tricks up her sleeve. Just when you think the pieces have all fitted into place, Wrobel upends the table and you have to look at the big picture all over again.
This debut makes for intoxicating reading and her dark and twisted tale is likely to keep you up into the wee small hours. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, then I advise you to make a note of this one!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars