I just finished reading the Stephen King novel, “Rose Madder.”
The summary of the book, so you don’t have to waste your time reading it, is this: a very mousey woman named Rosie has been married to a (very) abusive husband for 14 years. One day something just clicks (a drop of blood on a bedsheet– though believe me she’d been through far worse) and she leaves.
She finds her way to a shelter called Sisters and Daughters where she meets other women recovering from abuse. While visiting a pawn shop to sell her wedding ring (which she finds out is fake) she sees a painting of a woman on a hill above the ruins of a temple that strikes her eye. She happily trades it for the near-worthless ring.
From the pawn shop encounter she gets a job reading audio books and with the new-found income moves out of the shelter and into her own apartment.
MEANWHILE, her estranged husband Norman (a cop) has been tracking her down and he’s really pissed and he’s absolutely crazy. An example of his craziness is near the end of the book where he has stolen a Minotaur mask from a kid and uses it like a hand-puppet. Ferdinand, ze bool, he calls it, and it talks to him. Sensibly, in fact.
Rosie is fascinated by the picture and it eventually becomes a portal to another world inside the painting where she meets the woman on the hill who is apparently has some disease underneath her skin that rots her from the inside out and you can’t look at her face directly or you’ll go mad. She rescues this woman’s baby and steps back into real life, not remembering a lot.
She becomes familiar with the proprieter of the pawn shop who is a sweet, gentleman and treats her very well. They go into the mountains and on that same day Norman (who has found her location) begins brutally killing associates of Sisters and Daughters in an attempt to find out where Rosie is.
He is still, of course, pissed and crazy.
Don’t worry– I’m almost done.
Rosie and her boyfriend (Bill) go home and Norman catches up to them there. They go INTO the painting where the woman we discover has a spider for a face and eats Norman. She then plants seeds in him.
They go out and resume normal life and suddenly Rosie has changed into an angry and violent bitch and she secretly hates the man she fell in love with, a completely unnatural and unwarranted turn of a character I’d grown to love (I’ll never forgive you for that, Mr. King). The end.
Of course, it’s much more dramatic, brutal, and drawn out than my condensed summary.
Now … I really enjoyed this story up until she went into the picture. I literally had to put the book down for a few days and it was only a moment of weakness that I picked it back up again.
The characters are believable and we really feel for them, we really attach to them. Then there’s this picture thing. I love how Stephen King weaves a tale using real-life references. It’s when he tries to mix them with a contrived, Land of Naria-type of supernatural event that I have to shake my head and say to myself, “He’s making this shit up as he goes along, isn’t he.” No rhyme, no reason, no well-thought out plot … just People. Going. Into. Pictures.