In 2016, BuzzFeed published an explosive investigative report about Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a young woman who was a longtime victim of child abuse by her mother, Dee Dee. In 2015, along with a boyfriend she met on the internet, Gypsy Rose murdered her mother. Dee Dee was later found to have Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological disorder that manifested in her lying to the world about Gypsy Rose’s failing health. The story was then made into a documentary in 2017 and adapted into a Hulu miniseries, The Act, in 2019.
Stephanie Wrobel obviously borrowed details from the case for her incendiary debut novel, Darling Rose Gold. But instead of recounting history as it happened, Wrobel has imagined a world where Gypsy Rose’s story doesn’t turn murderous. It’s an intense and unexpected departure from the story we’ve become so familiar with.
For the first 18 years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She used a wheelchair and was allergic to everything, but despite countless tests and surgeries, no doctors could figure out what was wrong with her. In a ripped-from-the-headlines twist, it turns out that her mom, Patty, was just a really good liar. In addition to poisoning her daughter to make it seem like she was gravely ill, Patty swindled innocent people out of money under the guise of fundraisers.
After serving five years in prison for aggravated child abuse, Patty gets out and, to the shock and chagrin of their entire community, Rose Gold—now 23 years old with a 1-month-old baby—agrees to take her in. Lest you think this is a touching mother-daughter story about redemption, remember that Patty abused Rose Gold for more than a decade, and Rose Gold’s testimony in court was the main reason Patty went to jail. These women want revenge, and they want it now.
Told from both women’s perspectives, Darling Rose Gold becomes a game of psychological one-upmanship, with Rose Gold and Patty seemingly competing to see which one is more twisted and damaged. (Spoiler alert: They’re both extremely twisted and damaged.) These two intensely flawed characters couldn’t be more unlikable, but Wrobel’s portrayal of them is compulsively readable.
Touted as Sharp Objects meets Misery, Darling Rose Gold is a psychological thriller you’ll stay up all night reading, even if it means going to work bleary-eyed on two hours of sleep. If you think you know this story, rest assured…you have no idea what these women are truly capable of.