The Violence: A Novel - book cover
Action & Adventure
  • Publisher : Del Rey
  • Published : 01 Feb 2022
  • Pages : 512
  • ISBN-10 : 0593156625
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593156629
  • Language : English

The Violence: A Novel

Three generations of abused women must navigate their chilling new reality as a mysterious epidemic of violence sweeps the nation in this compelling novel of self-discovery, legacy, and hope.

"A gorgeously creative and surprisingly gleeful story about the way violence infects every aspect of American life."-Sarah Langan, author of Good Neighbors

"A novel that defines this era."-Stephen Graham Jones, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians


When Chelsea Martin kisses her husband hello at the door of their perfect home, a chilled bottle of beer in hand and dinner on the table, she may look like the ideal wife, mother, and homemaker-but in fact she's following an unwritten rulebook, carefully navigating David's stormy moods in a desperate nightly bid to avoid catastrophe. If family time doesn't go exactly the way David wants, bad things happen-to Chelsea, and to the couple's seventeen-year-old daughter, Ella. Cut off from all support, controlled and manipulated for years, Chelsea has no resources and no one to turn to. Her wealthy, narcissistic mother, Patricia, would rather focus on the dust on her chandelier than acknowledge Chelsea's bruises. After all, Patricia's life looks perfect on the surface, too.

But the façade crumbles when a mysterious condition overtakes the nation. Known as the Violence, it causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bursts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. The ensuing chaos brings opportunity for Chelsea-and inspires a plan to liberate herself and her family once and for all.

Editorial Reviews

"A paean to the resilience of women . . . As the characters in this novel fight for their lives in a pandemic-cursed hellscape, The Violence could not be more of-the-moment."-Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Deep

"Delilah S. Dawson has crafted a pandemic thriller that's so much more-a piercing examination of survival, courage, and self, terrifying and hopeful in equal measure."-Peng Shepherd, award-winning author of The Book of M

"The Violence in The Violence might be contagious, but what you really catch here is the anger-so righteous and so right here, right now-in a novel that defines this era."-Stephen Graham Jones, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians

"An inspiring story of self-discovery, resilience, and hope, and a page-turning thrill ride that will leave you breathless."-Sylvain Neuvel, author of The Themis Files and A History of What Comes Next

"Horrifying and inspiring in equal measure, The Violence shines a light on the epidemic of abuse women have always endured, folded into a stellar thriller full of danger, courage, and characters who feel alive."-Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Road of Bones and Ararat

"The Violence is Dawson at her best: unflinching yet empathetic, the brutal and the gentle side by side, rage and despair tempered with joy and hope."-Kevin Hearne, New York Times bestselling author of the Ink & Sigil series

"The Violence isn't just a timely, ripping thriller-it's an intimate, thoughtful, heart-wrenching portrait of abuse and power, and how those things ripple through generations."-Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse

"With The Violence, Dawson takes no damn prisoners: a powerful, fascinating, and courageous gut punch of a book."-Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Relentless and V-Wars

"A compulsively readable fusion of domestic thriller and modern horror that shocks and surprises at every turn. A must-read!"-Kameron Hurley, author of The Light Brigade

"A staggering, masterful tale of survival and redemption during a literal epidemic of violence. Dawson is a storyteller working at the top of her class."-Chuck Wendig, New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

"Visceral, thrilling . . . A novel paced like a fistfight, aching like a just-gone tooth-but there's hope in the harrowing."-Max Gladstone, Hugo and Nebula award–winning author

"The Violence is a stunning story with a cast of fully developed ch...

Short Excerpt Teaser


Chelsea Martin sits in a perfect sunbeam at her perfect kitchen table, staring at the piece of paper that's going to destroy her life.

Insufficient funds? Impossible.

Her husband, David, manages their bank accounts, and he's in finance, so this must be a mistake. She's read the aggressively detached, computer-printed words a hundred times, and an unwelcome sensation roils, deep in her stomach, her coffee threatening to come back up. It's not panic, not yet, but it's not good.

Would David tell her if they were in trouble? She glances at her phone and considers the best way to ask without insulting him. A text would be safest; he hates it when her voice wobbles. He says she cries too easily, that it's impossible to have a conversation with her when she's so emotional.

No, not worth it. He'll come home and see the paper, and he'll handle it. Let him be angry at the bank, not the messenger, and let him be angry later rather than both now and later. She unconsciously puts a hand to her throat and swallows hard, dreading what will happen when he gets home from work.

Definitely not worth bothering him now.

She tries to focus on what she was doing before the mail arrived, but she knows logging onto the online portal and watching the mandatory weekly "Let's Sell Dreams!" video will only make her feel worse. When she signed her contract to sell Dream Vitality essential oils, she'd hoped it would give her some small amount of independence, something to do, something to be proud of. Now, staring into the depths of a wooden case filled with tiny purple bottles, all full and unopened and gathering dust, she never wants to smell bergamot again.

A brand-new cardboard box waits in the foyer, her monthly required shipment optimistically labeled dream delivery! But after a year of trying to sell a product that's supposed to sell itself, she's ready to admit defeat. She had a dream: to start her own business, build savings, and tap into a network of smart, motivated women. Instead, she's alienated friends through the required social media posts, embarrassed her daughters, and outlived her welcome at every party and playgroup, and all she has to show for it is boxes and boxes of product that she can't even sell at cost. Even before the-surely incorrect?-overdraft notice arrived today, she worried that this month's withdrawal would take her over her strict budget, and that when David found it during his account check, things would get . . . bad.

The hardest thing is that her attempt at entrepreneurship has shown her that most of her friends online aren't really friends. There's no support, no sharing, no purchases, no reviews. Everyone just ignores it. The only encouragement she gets comes from a back-rubbing circle of other plucky moms trying to support one another in an online group with good vibes only, and she wonders if everyone else also secretly feels this constant exhaustion, this disconnection, this profound loneliness.

It was supposed to save her, but it just got her in more trouble.

Buck up, bitch, she tells herself. It's just oil.

Not that it makes her feel any better.

She runs her hands through what's slowly becoming her mother's hair as her stylist increasingly covers the gray with bleach in a process with a French name that doubles the cost. The perfect pool sparkles outside the picture window, but she can't jump in because it would make her hair as crisp as uncooked spaghetti with a bonus mossy tinge. She looks around at the shiplap, the granite, the Edison bulbs, the seasonal throw pillows. Everything is perfect, but nothing is right.

Even the snowy-white dog snoring on a matching dog bed is boutique-a shedless bichon named Olaf that cost more than Chelsea's first car, because David couldn't stand the thought of dog hair rolling along the marble floors like tumbleweeds. Poor, sweet Olaf is terrified of him and spends most of his time hiding in a closet. But then again, Olaf is deeply inbred, a yipping bag of neuroses and surprise puddles of pee.

The big and airy house is the complete opposite of the shitbox apartments Chelsea grew up in. It should be beautiful and relaxing, but it's closing in on her, an avalanche of stuff and the never-ending work it takes to keep that stuff either proudly displayed at perfect angles or hidden from view, to keep everything running. She never imagined that life would be like this, that she would feel so constantly trapped.

Chelsea is pouring another cup of coffee that will barely touch her bone-deep disquiet when the doorbell rings, sending her entire body rigid. She scans the wall calendar, the dates empty of commitments and the top crammed with posed pictures of her famil...