Amanda Rio by Steven Donahue review

Hi everyone! Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought I’d review Steven Donahue’s Amanda Rio, and I kindly got sent a copy by the author. To outsiders the titular Amanda seems to have a happy life; she’s married to her high school sweetheart Bobby and they have 12-year-old daughter Mary, who is excelling in her extra curricular activities. However, in private it is a different story, with Bobby prone to violent ‘eruptions’ as Amanda calls them, and her reliance on booze to help numb the pain. After a particularly violent fight involving Bobby, Amanda attempts to get help for the both of them. But will it work?

Donahue is tackling very dark, disturbing issues such as domestic violence and suicide, so if these topics are too much to read for you I would skip this novel. I think these issues aren’t gratuitous here nor is there any moment these topics are glamourised. Rather they are portrayed realistically, and it is obvious that Donahue has done research into domestic violence cases. It gives the story a feeling of authenticity, and these elements are handled with great sensitivity and care which I really appreciated.

The characters are also very well-written. Amanda is an interesting protagonist; she makes some poor decisions throughout the novel but you understand why she makes them, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. She displays both vulnerability and strength at various points; and as a reader you hope the stronger side to her personality wins out.

Bobby is also a fascinating character. He is incredibly charming and romantic when he wishes to be, though you know from the first chapter he is a monster. The fact you don’t know if he’ll snap or not makes him terrifying. He lingers over the plot even when he doesn’t appear in the chapters; he’s like this malignant force that dominates the book much in the same way he dominates the other characters’ lives. It feels like relief when you have reached the end of the novel as you don’t have to be in his company again.

My one minor criticism is similar to the one brought up in Monday’s The Beijing Family review; there were times when I felt Donahue added unnecessary details. I’m not really bothered by what the characters had for breakfast or anything like that; I very much want to progress on with the plot. But that’s a pet peeve of mine; others may enjoy a lot of details.

I really enjoyed Amanda Rio, though I understand why others may not or find it too upsetting. Donahue is a very skilled writer, especially when it comes to characterisation. There were a couple of spelling mistakes and unnecessary details but these are minor issues. Overall it was a very impactful novel.

Amanda Rio is published independently and you can find more information here.