I knew going into this book that the topic was going to be a difficult one, and I was prepared. Emotional abuse is no joke, affecting thousands of people each day, and I have been lucky enough to have never had to go through the painful life Rose struggles through from page one.
100 reasons to leave, 1,000 reasons to stay
When Rose married the love of her life she was expecting the perfect family life she’d always dreamed of, but before her first child was born her husband, Darren, changed.
Almost overnight Rose’s life is turned upside down and the life she’d envisioned seemed like an impossible dream.
As Darren’s abuse deepens, Rose has 100 reasons to leave but 1,000s why she can’t. Will she ever escape the hellish life she and her children are trapped in?
Can Rose stop her life spiralling further out of control?
Can she find the life she desperately wants for her children?
Stuck at Isolation Junction, which way will Rose turn?
When Rose first meets Darren, he’s the perfect gentleman. Handsome and caring, he makes her feel like a princess. Her parents warn her about the age gap, but she doesn’t care: she’s in love with the perfect man and… he won’t let her go.
Very quickly, their relationship dissolves into one abuse. Darren is manipulative and scary, quickly isolating Rose from her family and friends. If she ever notices, he quickly turns the situation around until she’s the bad guy, or claims nothing happened at all – gaslighting her. Every staple of a toxic relationship can be found, and while it’s painfully evident to us readers, Rose falls deeper and deeper into this trap until she feels there’s no escape.
How does one escape when they haven’t spoken to their family and years? When the man who they married is holding their children basically as hostages? When you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of him finding something new to punish you for?
Isolation Junction packs a powerful punch. As I mentioned above, it ticks off every sign of a toxic/abusive relationship. In one emotional moment in the novel, Rose goes through the list of what makes a relationship abusive. The list says “If you have answered YES to any one of these questions, then it is abusive” – and she realizes she has said yes to every one of them. We feel for Rose, we want her to escape, for her children to be safe. We want her to break free.
It was harder to get involved with the character since the book is written in an odd style, partially between fiction and what feels like an autobiography. Emotions are stright on the page and a little jumbled. We feel on the outside looking in, like there’s a window between us and Rose. Because of this, some emotional or painful moments don’t land as hard as they should. When Rose tries to reclaim her children, now that is a moment where I felt involved; when Darren’s family backs him up, now there, I felt involved. But for the rest of the novel, I was an outsider.
Another thing that was a little odd was how some moments were repeated by the author but told differently. For example, her home business is introduced twice, and now I’m not quite sure what she does. Or when she describes what finally broke the relationship between her and Darren, but we read that scene and it wasn’t exactly that? Some details I don’t mention here because they could be Darren’s gaslighting contorting Rose’s memories, but these re-descriptions pulled me further out of the story.
Even so, this book does an amazing job of raising awareness. For many people who don’t see the red flags at first, this book could open their eyes. For friends, this is a good way to spot the warning signs of a loved one being in an abusive relationship. It’s also a reminder of how difficult it still is for people to escape these relationships (if Tim wasn’t there, I don’t know how Rose would have done it, no matter how strong she is) and that we need to be there for our friends in their times of need.
Isolation Junction is an honest and raw look at the torment of domestic abuse, and a reminder for everyone that their voice matters.