Around Christmas time MSD picked up a slew of novels for me by authors he knew I like (most of these books he found at the thrift store). And I've been picking my way through them (hence the musing on Kingsolver in the previous post). I just finished, "Black and Blue" by Quindlan.
Now when I first started this book I thought, "Why am I reading this???" Because as the title implies it's about a woman in an abusive relationship who's body is "black and blue" from beatings etc. The reason I questioned my read of the book is simply that I work with people's pain for a living and a book like this brings back the real examples I've seen. But on the other hand since I do the work I do I am always striving to understand a bit more of another person's experience in order to empathize.
So I pressed on with the book. It's main narrative is told by Fran whose emotions, experiences and thoughts drive the overall story. Quindlan does a good job with her characters, Fran is credible and conveys the overwhelming sense of fear she has toward her husband. The book starts with her taking her son and leaving her husband secretly. I felt her nervousness throughout the book and understood her constant vigilance over her son. Additionally, while reading I felt pretty much on edge the entire time. While not a relaxing read, certainly a more accurate one. This is not a pretty tale of escape and happy endings. I found myself wondering throughout the entire book when her husband would find them. It seemed inevitable.
In the meantime I was also impressed with Quindlan's portrayal of a woman trying desperately to make a home for her son and herself in a completely foreign environment. She finds ways to be resourceful and doesn't shirk difficult conversations with her son. She makes friends, finds a new life and starts to find herself in the process. That's probably the other reason I stuck with the book- I can appreciate a narrative where the main character is on a journey of self-discovery. In Fran's case this self-discovery is crucial to her survival not just personal growth.
Her husband does find her, but what happens after that isn't the most important part of the story. The critical part seems to be the act of leaving, of standing up and saying to herself that she wasn't going to take his abuse anymore. That she didn't deserve it. The other important part is her struggle to redefine herself and craft a new life. She is basically without any help and Quindlan doesn't glass over some of the more difficult aspects of her new life. The book feels real, raw and the emotions reflect that.
Overall a good read, but the emotions are challenging.