In this memoir, a woman chronicles her long, abusive relationship with a psychopath.
When an old flame calls Marvela Dawnay out of the blue, she has no idea she’s about to travel down a dark, dangerous path. Rolf, a boy she knew in high school and with whom she’d had a brief sexual relationship, appears at first to be the perfect guy. Very soon, however, that changes when he shows his true colors as an abusive drug addict. In the course of their turbulent relationship, Dawnay ends up marrying Rolf three separate times. She tells her story with clarity and purpose, and she unflinchingly documents the abuse she suffered at Rolf’s hands. She divorced Rolf the first time because he was sent to jail for drug-related offences. When he got out and repented, Dawnay took him back. But, slowly morphing back into the terrible man he was before, he has an affair. Dawany again takes him back after he’s shot, but their toxic relationship only gets worse. The most frustrating part of Dawnay’s account is the fact that she never turns inward to examine the reasons behind her own actions. There’s little self-reflection, as Dawnay mostly retells events in an unaffected, matter-of-fact tone. The novel is most successful when it focuses on other parts of Dawnay’s life, such as her job, her daughter and how her relationship with Rolf affected those parts of her life. The truly sad and scary part of Dawnay’s story is how much Rolf, through manipulation, intertwines his life with hers. Resigning from her job at a bank, she goes to work in a car dealership with Rolf. Yet even after their final divorce, Dawnay still endures working for him as she searches for a way to free herself for good.
The lack of self-reflection lessens this triumphant story of survival in the face of abuse.