Roseghetto, the debut novel from author Kristy Jagger, takes a hard look at trauma and low-socioeconomic hardships. The novel begins with the main character, Shayla, at just three-years-old and follows her right through to when she is an eighteen-year-old. Throughout the book, readers get a glimpse into what it is like living and growing up in public housing and low-socioeconomic neighbourhoods. And through the eyes of Shayla, readers are exposed to financial and physical hardships, questionable relationships, and un-ideal neighbourhoods.
Before the book begins, reader discretion is advised, with trigger warnings present for physical and sexual violence against women, children, and animals. Furthermore, repeated, and sustained trauma is also presented through substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and revictimization. Some of these topics will be discussed throughout this review and minor spoilers will be mentioned. Jagger, however, notes that Roseghetto is a story about breaking the cycle, and not being broken by it.
To continue, the prose, throughout the novel, had a strong hold on me as a reader. As mentioned, Roseghetto starts when Shayla is three, and ends when she is eighteen, and about to break out of the traumatic and low-socioeconomic cycle that her mother was trapped in. As readers progress through the story, the writing formant changes dramatically as Shayla ages. However, when you are engrossed within the read, that change in prose is subtle. For me, this not only highlighted Jagger’s strong writing ability, but also strengthened the affect of the book, which often left me feeling emotional, overwhelmed, and dazed. However, what kept me going was knowing that this book, again, is about breaking the cycle. The tone and affect of the book demanded my attention, and I knew that the story needed to be told and listened to.
Throughout Roseghetto, sexual abuse is explored two times towards the main character, Shayla. The first time was emotionally impactful. The second time, however, felt rushed in comparison. The first instance of abuse, I feel, had been afforded enough attention and care necessary. However, as the story progresses, the attention brought to it subsided, apart from minor conversations and actions that tried to hide the initial event. I think this is a realistic interpretation on how it can affect people’s lives. However, I felt that it perhaps should have had a greater affect on Shayla than was depicted. This could have been shown through their internal dialogue.
The second time the abuse occurred, it all felt rushed with little to no attention brought to it after the incident. It also felt like it was there to continue the narrative that began at the first instance, for shock value, and to further emphasise the reader’s emotional reaction towards the end when Shayla does eventually break out of the cycle. With that lack of attention and build up around the assault, the final third of the book felt rushed and was quick to conclude with a happy ending. This left me feeling detached from a character I’d connected with strongly through the first two thirds of the book. That said this did not stop me from crying and cheering at the conclusion of Shayla’s story.
Whether or not this book is actually about breaking out of the cycle can be up for discussion. However, I do feel that this story brings light and attention to socially taboo topics that are not discussed or mentioned enough in our society. Therefore, I do believe that this is a significant book that demands to be read and should be acknowledged. However, keep in mind the content warnings and do not read if you’re not in the right headspace to do so. But, if you are, then I highly recommend Roseghetto.