The Painted Rose
by Alejandra O. Reed

"Mildred has mastered and tailored her facade for years. Whatever the position called for, Mildred will change to fit the moment."

Dotti Miller is forced to grow up in a difficult situation. Her mother, Mildred, is abusive, and her father, Tommy, refuses to notice the signs of a clearly unhealthy family dynamic. After being inspired by a newscast, Dotti decides they need to catch Mildred in the act, recording her abuse on videotape and playing it for their father to end the marriage and allow his children a happier, healthier homelife. However, even when Dotti's plan works, the lingering effects of that homelife continue to poison and infect her thinking. She resents her sister Bobbi who Mildred often pitted against the others. She also begins to secretly drink alcohol, commit small crimes, and distance herself completely from her family. It will take an awful lot of willpower and support for Dotti to overcome her upbringing and find a way in this world.

Readers who grew up in a turbulent home may need to mentally prepare themselves before reading this story. Though the details are not typically gruesome or graphic, certainly the emotional challenges and decision-making stemming from being raised in an abusive environment are on display here. The author does a wonderful job at the deft storytelling involved in making this more than a mere story of revenge and justice. Though Dotti accomplishes her goal rather early in the story, her upbringing's ramifications stick with her, and readers are along for every bump in that long and winding road. The writing style employs a distancing, passive approach to the characters and their emotions, showing intimate moments but describing them somewhat coldly, perfectly matching the story's psychological tones. With a firm basis in unfortunate reality, the drama, heartbreak, and eventual hope that persists here bring readers through the lowest valleys in the book's poignant narrative journey.

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