The Violence
March 4, 2022

Book Review

The Violence

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water (i.e. society), a new pandemic is spreading across the world. This one has been called “The Violence” and makes Covid look like a plush, cuddly, teddy bear.

It strikes the victim without warning and causes “storming.” To the outside observer the infected’s eyes go blank, as if, no one was there. Then suddenly they fly into a berserker rage, attacking the unlucky person near them, pummeling them with the first available object, relentlessly, until their target is dead. When the “storm” abates the person afflicted has no memory of the outburst.

Intense investigation has revealed it is transmitted by mosquitos and it arises in Florida and other warm weather climes, but relentlessly spreads throughout the world. A vaccine is developed, but falls into the hands of privateers, costing $30,000 a shot.

Delilah Dawson uses this horrific backdrop to explore themes that are personally relevant to her own life. Taking center stage, the insidious and devastating nature of abuse, both physical and mental, are explored using the lives of three generations of women.

The story masterfully unfolds with the point of view of three major characters. Chelsea Martin is the major protagonist, trapped in an unhealthy marriage. Her husband, David, is both mentally and physically abusive. His abusive behavior is controlling and manipulative, with the goal of making her feel useless and helpless. To seek her compliance, he can easily escalate to actual choking her into unconsciousness. Her seventeen-year-old daughter, Ella, is witness and to a lesser extent the victim of the abuse, and provides a valuable viewpoint in exploration of gender dynamics, effects of abusive trauma, and lengths one will go to for survival. And she is awakening to the realization that her interactions with her boyfriend is escalating into an abusive relationship.

The third viewpoint is visualized through the history, actions, and motivations of Chelsea’s mother, Patricia. The current version of Patricia provides no support for Chelsea—she shows little in the way of love or understanding. She is selfish and judgmental, and has married her way into wealth and prestige. Her backstory is complex, but initiated with a physically abusive mother, who threw her out of the home as an eighteen-year-old unwed mother. In that incarnation she was known as Patty.

Sadly, on average it takes seven tries for a woman to finally escape domestic violence. A plan starts to crystallize in Chelsea’s mind. For the first time in their marriage, when David walks through the front door, she provokes rather than placates him. As expected, his fury results in a brutal beating. She flees to the bathroom, and behind the locked door calls the hotline that everyone has committed to memory, and reports that The Violence has infected her husband. The police arrive and he is wrestled out of the home, kicking, screaming, and cursing.

Dawson crafts a complex and twisted narrative that unspools the heart-breaking plight of all three women of the family, and the obstacles they must overcome to achieve self-actualization and transformation in this harrowing time of their lives. Chelsea will do anything to protect her two daughters. Can she actually turn to her selfish and despicable mother for help? Is her sweet little daughter, Brooklyn, doomed to repeat the cycle?

Dawson weaves a heart-rendering characterization of the women, that imparts both empathy and ingenuity into their being as real-life and genuine people. The Violence is a novel of not only survival, but more so of personal growth and empowerment.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

The Violence available at:


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