Review: The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson

“It was all sandcastles built on the shoreline by someone who’d forgotten that sand was just another kind of dirt.”


Del Rey Books | 2022

Filed Under: Good for her.

Well, this novel is a weird little gem.

I don’t know what I was expecting from a plot centring around a new virus – five years after covid – that turns people into mindless, murderous violent monsters and a mother who joins a new wrestling… group? Organization? Federation? What is the correct term for a wrestling thing? Whatever, the point is this is oddball, heartfelt and violent in equal measure and I totally dug it.

Chelsea is married to David. David is a controlling, gaslighting, abusive piece of absolute shit. When the virus – named the Violence – starts spreading with rapid and deadly results, Chelsea devises a way out, but between her two children and her emotionally abusive rich-bitch mother, things don’t go exactly as planned.

This novel has a wild and original plot that takes so many unpredictable turns with vibrant scenes and satisfying prose. I was bewildered by the kooky moments mixed in with the uncomfortably real ones, but was also on the edge of my seat the entire time.

It’s all “what the actual fuck” vibes but in a good way.

But be warned, a massive content warning is needed for domestic violence and animal death.

As someone who was in an abusive relationship for an unfortunate chunk of my 20s, the scenes between Chelsea and David made me so anxious it was almost unbearable. But that’s what lets me know this author fucking gets it. Like, the audacity of Delilah Dawson to write scenes of domestic violence so fucking honest and raw and good. Talk about hitting the shitty nail right on its shitty head.

This is about the Violence with a capital V, and about violence with a lower-case v. It explores all the violent themes therein with out-of-the-box plotting, genuine dialogue, deftly presented characters and unflinching directness.

I totally loved it. It’s 500 pages that a blew through in three sittings. And that is so unlike me, but I was completely captivated by this chonky, eccentric story.

You get lots of murder, malignant narcissism, a covid meets rabies virus, the second massive societal trauma in five years, generational trauma, obsessive social climbing, McMansions, fleeing rich people, shitty first boyfriends, emotional manipulation, mothers trying their best, mothers doing their worst, aggressive beer drinking, domestic abuse behind closed doors, domestic abuse caught on viral video, abuse of power, verbal put-downs, restricting money, cancelled credit cards, money hidden, money stolen, forced botox, gaslighting, choke holds, terrorizing with a baseball bat, mirror shards in the face, brain splattered rompers, intentional antagonizing, government virus hotline, threats of violence, actual violence, bad cops, bad men, condescending men, forced quarantine, self-quarantine, 911 calls, staying with grandma but grandma’s a bitch, the national guard, pepper as a murder trigger, virus-centric wrestling, wrestling training, wrestling fame, dangerous crowds, unexpected divorce, vomit to the face, poop to the face, bullets in the face, head smashing, road trips gone awry, car accidents, car theft, entrepenuring people, stupid people, desperate people, lost family, vaccines made in an RV, death by spatula, death by Yeti cup, death by Caboodle, pile-ons, gaping bite wounds, running away from medical bills, abandoned homes, dead housecats, stomped dogs, rich people scavenging, fighting back, standing up for yourself, ending the cycle, and karma being a glorious bitch.

This was compelling and messed up and stressed me the fuck out. It gave me everything I couldn’t have wanted from a virus horror story exploring themes of abuse and women’s empowerment and changing your fucking life. It’s violent but it has so much heart.

For sure it won’t be for everyone, but it’s one of my favourite reads of 2022.

A mysterious plague that causes random bouts of violence is sweeping the nation. Now three generations of women must navigate their chilling new reality in this moving exploration of identity, cycles of abuse, and hope.

Chelsea Martin appears to be the perfect housewife: married to her high school sweetheart, the mother of two daughters, keeper of an immaculate home.

But Chelsea’s husband has turned their house into a prison; he has been abusing her for years, cutting off her independence, autonomy, and support. She has nowhere to turn, not even to her narcissistic mother, Patricia, who is more concerned with maintaining the appearance of an ideal family than she is with her daughter’s actual well-being. And Chelsea is worried that her daughters will be trapped just as she is–then a mysterious illness sweeps the nation.

Known as The Violence, this illness causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bouts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. But for Chelsea, the chaos and confusion the virus causes is an opportunity–and inspires a plan to liberate herself from her abuser. 

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