The Fortress: A Love Story by Danielle Trussoni called out to me, but I can't remember from where. I think from a book review somewhere. I am so glad that I had the wherewithal to get this book from the library because it was incredible.
Danielle is a young woman who has lost her marriage, with a young son and working on an MFA when she meets Nikolai, a Bulgarian national who is getting his degree at the same university on a visa. Love hits hard and fast and dangerously. Suddenly Nikolai's visa is up, and they decide to return to Bulgaria while he clears up the matter. They find out that this return requires a two-year stay there, and at the same time, they find out that they are pregnant. They marry, they stay, then they move back to the states. The marriage crumbles from the beginning as Danielle ignores the warning signs. A last ditch effort has her moving her family to the south of France to an ancient home to repair what has been cracking for years. There her marriage slowly disintegrates as she realizes her husband has issues that she can't resolve.
Trussoni is one compelling writer, and I am so glad I picked up this book on a day when I had a lot of commuting to do. I read it in one day. I couldn't put it down, and I couldn't wait to pick it back up again when I had to step away from it momentarily. It's one hell of a book.
Nikolai is a narcissist. Trussoni never says this, but based upon her descriptions of what happened in their marriage, this isn't a far leap to name the issue. You might say he's crazy, and I might agree with you, but it goes deeper than that. His refusal to compromise with his wife is frightening; instead, he will agree with her then do what he wants, whether it is vaccinating their child or feeding her what he wants. He lords his young daughter over his wife to the point that he ignores his stepson and alienates everyone else. I felt so bad for her daughter, Nico, and what she will have to deal with when she reaches adulthood. I can see the therapy bills piling up already. Dealing with the fallout of a parent who is a narcissist is a long, fraught process. I haven't read Trussoni's first memoir of her father, but from the description she gave in this book, it sounds like her father and her husband share many traits. I was angry for her when she discovered Nikolai had cheated, and I was livid when he felt he could just lie to her as though she couldn't see right through him. I wanted to scream at her to just leave him then.
Trussoni had a right to be frightened of her husband, and I really felt she should have been more frightened far sooner. It was almost a bit too late by the time she came around to ending her marriage. I wanted her to be happy so badly that when she chose to take a love (you see this coming a mile away), I wanted this for her. I cheered her on and urged her to do it in my own mind. She deserved it. Her husband is a classic emotional abuser; throughout their entire marriage, when she wasn't in town or around him all the time he would call obsessively, send a million emails and texts and make her feel guilty for having a life, all the while cheating on her and treating her horribly when she was home. Can you tell I found the man insufferable?
As I said, this memoir was incredibly compelling and an astounding read. Trussoni is an incredible writer and it was a joy to read this piece.