In from the Cold is a gripping story, by turns haunting, harrowing, and ultimately, heroic.
It's the tale of Tess, a young woman with small children wh In from the Cold is a gripping story, by turns haunting, harrowing, and ultimately, heroic.
It's the tale of Tess, a young woman with small children who finds herself trapped in a marriage with a sociopath. The horror sneaks up on you: The tale starts with the ordinary, banal, even boring details of Tess's marriage, outside friendships, activities, etc. Only a few things seem a bit "off" about her handsome husband Mark: he's strongly opinionated and a bit of a control freak, yes, but doing nothing particularly outrageous.
But as time passes, Mark becomes -- or reveals himself to be -- something far, far more sinister than merely "opinionated" or "controlling." He is a cold-blooded psychological sadist, deviously manipulative, taking pleasure in acquiring, then exercising, total power over his unsuspecting wife. Behind her back, he methodically, insidiously undermines her reputation among all their mutual family and friends -- then with police, pastors, psychologists, and even her own parents. His goal: to make her appear to be emotionally unstable and a bad mother, so that he can hold her tattered reputation over her head should she ever try to leave him, then try to get custody of the children she loves.
And so he weaves a web for complete control...
I have studied criminal psychopathology and sociopaths during years of journalistic investigations of the criminal justice system. The depiction of Mark is one of the most bone-chillingly realistic portraits of a deviously cunning sociopath that I have ever encountered. How he manipulates reality even in casual conversations is beyond creepy. You will not believe the extremes to which he is willing to go to dominate another human being. Mark's characterization ought to go into psychological textbooks under the topic of "psychopathology."
After six years of "marriage," Tess finds herself trapped in a hell of increasing brutality and terrifying insanity. Her reputation destroyed, her self-esteem and self-confidence smothered in the Kafka-esque unreality Mark has created all around her, Tess fears for her life and for her children's safety.
And yet...and yet, she still maintains a tenacious, if tentative, grip on reality -- just enough of a hand-hold to start her on the long, frightening climb toward liberation, and, eventually, a new and happy life.
This is not the kind of fiction I normally read, but I am glad that I have. Rose Robbins has great gifts as a natural-born storyteller, gifts of characterization and narrative power that sweep aside as irrelevant the occasional rawness of technique that is to be expected from any first-time novelist.
Anyone who has had to deal with an abuser, or who finds himself/herself in an abusive relationship (personal or professional) with a manipulator, will find this book eye-opening and enlightening -- but also encouraging. In from the Cold may give him or her the insight and inspiration they will need to follow Tess's courageous path to self-liberation and, finally, to self-fulfillment.
One thing it will give to any reader, however, is a compelling, gripping story. This is a dazzling debut. I can't wait for more fiction from the keyboard of Rose Robbins.
--Robert Bidinotto, author,
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