Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Whatcha reading, week 37

I took a detour last week to read Biblical Womanhood instead of Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. I think it's kind of interesting that last week, in the midst of some church drama, I was reading Biblical Womanhood and then immediately after that, I read Black and Blue when domestic violence is blowing up all over the headlines.

So, yeah, a book about domestic violence wasn't the cheeriest of topics. Black and Blue is the story of a woman who flees her abusive cop husband with her ten-year-old son.  The book opens as they leave their lives in New York and follows them as they set up a new life in a new place with new identities.  I read this book in one day, but I'm not sure that was because it was inherently riviting. In fact, the story dragged a little in places and dragged a lot in others. Still, I knew the husband was going to turn back up at some point and I wanted to be there when he did. 

Besides Frannie and her son, there were a handful of supporting characters in the story, but they were pretty one deminsional: the new friend, the new boyfriend-who's-not-a-boyfriend.  Beth (the name Frannie assumed) works as a home health aide, and the most interesting relationship she forms is a friendship with the elderly wife of one of her patients. Beth is not able to be completely honest with anyone because of the risk of her husband finding out where she is, but on reflection, I think she's been less-than-honest with herself and her son for so long, that revealing little and misdirecting when she can't avoid revealing has become second nature.

This is the second Anna Quindlen book I've read in the last month. (The other was Every Last One, which was also decidedly dark.) Quindlen has either been in an abusive relationship, is close to someone who has or has done excellent research. She hits all the right notes, from Beth blaming herself for her husband's actions to planting seeds in Beth's upbringing to explain why she was vulnerable to such a relationship. What she does best, however, is subtly portraying Beth's fatalism. Over the years they were married, through his abuse and her decision to stay, something in Beth clearly died. She loves her son deeply, but she's so damaged that when something awful happens to him, the reader is most struck by her inability to fully engage. She is sad, but resigned. Does she think she somehow deserved it? I don't think so, but she's lacking the fight you would normally expect from a mother in that situation.

Up next: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. How's this for an opening line: "They said the typewriter would unsex us." Can't wait to watch this one unfold. 

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