News & Politics

Reinventing the Woman

“Message that women must save themselves is powerful, but the execution needs work.”

Each chapter in Maryland writer Patty Rice’s novel starts with an affirmation-style epigraph. In the first chapter it’s “reinventing rule one: Don’t be the wheel! Observe, take stock of your life. Then decide that you must change it.”

Camille Foster is a battered woman who promised herself she’d leave the next time her boyfriend hit her. After she goes to his favorite bakery one evening so she can prepare a romantic dinner, he accuses her of seeing someone else and beats her. She escapes by hiding under the sofa and then making a dash for the door, driving away as he comes after her.

Camille tries to remember when her relationship became abusive: “She wanted to pinpoint exactly when the sky changed to night. No matter how often she tried it, some small distraction kept her from actually seeing it happen. Then she figured out that the sky would grow darker by degrees. Because it did, she didn’t notice until it had already happened. That’s how her life was. She couldn’t pinpoint when and how she had accepted Evan’s abuse as normal because it had happened so gradually.”

This is the most well-written and believable part of the book. After Camille moves in with her sister and gets a job working for an Oprah-like self-help guru, the plot deteriorates and reads more like a poor attempt at an Olivia Goldsmith novel. Rice’s message—that women must save themselves—is powerful, but the execution needs work.

Patty Rice

Simon & Schuster