Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Black and Blue - Anna Quindlen

Summary:  For eighteen years, Fran Benedetto kept her secret.  And hid her bruises.  And stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father.  And because, in spite of everything, she loved him.  Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son's face, Fran finally made a choice -- and ran for both their lives. 

Now she is starting over in a city far from home, far from Bobby.  And in this place she uses a name that isn't hers, and cradles her son in her arms, and tries to forget.  For the woman who now calls herself Beth, everyday is a chance to heal, to put together the pieces of her shattered self.  And everyday she waits for Bobby to catch up to her.  Because Bobby always said he would never let her go.  And despite the flawlessness of her escape, Fran Benedetto is certain of one thing:  It is only a matter of time...(Summary from book - Image from bookbyte.com)

My Review:  Black and Blue is the fiercely compelling story of Fran Benedetto, a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband. Not one to leave her child, Robert, behind or allow him to live one more second under the influence of his father, Fran obtains new identities through the help of an underground network for battered women, and the two take refuge in an unknown town while she tries to rebuild their shattered life.

One of my favorite quotes from this book tells how, when their relationship changed from caring to abusive, her husband did not like what he saw in her eyes.

“Things were good there for almost a year. It was my first broken bone; I think maybe that scared him. But I knew he’d try again, and again, and again, and yet again to wipe that look off my face, that reflection of himself in my eyes.”
Some books hit harder than others. They grip tighter because even though the stories aren’t real, they could be. Black and Blue is one of those books. It is real -- for someone. Eloquent and evocative, it perfectly captures the complexities of abusive relationships, why women stay, and why they leave. Those reasons will resonate with any mother.

“That’s why I left when I did, how I did. During the long nights of a Florida winter, alive with wind sounds and whispers, as I imagined that Bobby was on the roof, at the door, jimmying a window open, I had a lot of time to think. And that’s the truth. That’s why I left. I’m a nurse, you know, a Catholic girl, a mother, and the wife of a man who wanted to suck the soul out of me and put it in his pocket. I’m not real good at doing things for myself. But for Robert? That was a different story.”
Even though Black and Blue is fiction, it flawlessly illustrates the catastrophic effect that abuse can have on children, families, and outside relationships. Fran often speaks about her mixed feelings for her husband – how he was two different people – and how it was possible to love and hate, desire and fear, loathe and long for the same person. Women who have lived with abuse will likely identify with Fran’s character, her emotions, and motivations, especially if they have children.

Black and Blue is an Oprah book club pick and New York Times Bestseller. If you even need my stamp of approval after all that, I will most certainly give it to you. I was completely sucked into this story. Knowing that Bobby would eventually find Fran kept me on tenterhooks and gave me the tiniest glimpse of what it must really be like to live in a constant state of fear. I loved and hated and loved this book. It is both beautiful and horrifying. Exhilarating, tender, and sad. It is a thousand different things and with a stunning conclusion that left me breathless and aching for Fran and all the women like her who have had to choose.

I will definitely be reading more books by Anna Quindlen.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: The reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because of the high amounts of profanity. The husband in the book has a very foul mouth.  He's just all-around horrible.  Expect swearing whenever he enters the picture (especially if he's mad), be it through his actual presence in the story or any recounted memories.  At a certain point in the story, his profanity skyrockets. The deluge is confined to one chapter, but that chapter is pivotal, so readers sensitive to language might want to steer clear.  There were also a few sexual situations (very little detail), some sexual comments, and some discussion of abortion. 

Sum it up: A fiercely compelling novel that deserves its’ status as a New York Times Bestseller.

1 comment:

Ann Summerville said...

I've only read one book by Anna Quindlen and loved it. I'll look out for this.


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