Monroe tells of one woman’s struggles with domestic abuse in this debut novel.
In Toronto, on Ruby’s 16th birthday in 1955, she meets her future husband, Jason, during a nighttime cruise on Lake Ontario. He convinces her to have sex early in their courtship. She gets pregnant and marries Jason despite her misgivings; he’s 19 and she’s 16. Jason’s aggressive behavior quickly becomes more emotionally and physically abusive. Jason makes sexual advances on her younger sister and openly cheats on her; eventually, he starts beating and raping her. Over 20 years of marriage, during which they have two children, she does her best to try to keep Jason happy in the desperate hope that he’ll treat her better. Ruby succeeds at her corporate job at an envelope manufacturing company; eventually, she secretly takes lovers and plans her escape from her husband. Everything has to be done quietly, due to Jason’s repeated threats to murder her and their children, but she knows that leaving him is the only way to salvage her dignity. Monroe writes in a simple, declarative prose that’s synced to Ruby’s inner monologue: “Ruby’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the moving van pull into the driveway. She worried, What if Jason plans to return home and catch me in the act of moving? My stomach’s in knots.” The plot creeps along, building slowly, as in a work of horror fiction, although the subtitle, “Inspired by True Events,” along with the fact that the author and her protagonist share the same name, lends a chilling plausibility to the tale. The dialogue is a bit wooden, but Ruby’s agency in her professional life and in her eventual flight make her a dynamic protagonist. The author succeeds in depicting the codependent mindset that keeps Ruby with Jason, as well as the awakening that finally allowed her to realize the extreme danger of her situation.
A disturbing but resonant depiction of spousal abuse.