Why women stay in relationships where their partner physically abuses
them is something incomprehensible to those who've never been in the
situation. If it were me, we say, I'd be out of there in a second.
That's the theory. But until you've been there, you can't know how
you'd behave. Pulitzer-winning columnist Anna Quindlen takes readers of
her novel Black and Blue into the battered-woman
experience. Matter-of-fact and horrifying, it is the story of one
woman's attempt to save herself and her son from an abusive husband
who sits untouchable behind a policeman's badge.
When the story opens, Fran Benedetto has already fled her husband
Bobby's fists, taking their son Robert and leaving their home. She
has discovered a sort of underground railroad for battered women, a
network whose resources can provide a new name, a new identity and a
new place to live. What it cannot provide is an absolute sense of
safety and freedom from fear. Transplanting herself from New York to
Florida, Fran tries to become "Beth Crenshaw" and struggles to help
her somber, old-soul young son make the transition into a life of hiding
in the open.
The nearest Fran can get with her new identity to her old job as an
emergency-room nurse is work as a home-care assistant. Living in a
nondescript box of a house that is a far, far cry from the home she had
created for herself and her family in New York, Fran begins to feel
fractured in a purely emotional sense. She is Beth Crenshaw, the outer
persona keeping her and Robert tentatively safe; she is Frannie Flynn,
responsible daughter and beloved sister; she is Fran Benedetto, cop's
wife, beaten woman. Constantly aware of the chance of discovery, Fran
has to keep herself and her son from slipping up and giving Bobby
Benedetto the chance to find them. She is certain that eventually just
that will happen. She hears Bobby's voice speaking clearly in her mind
without cease, condescending and self-assured.
Fran and Robert each begin making friends, finding ways to fit themselves
into their new surroundings. Fran even considers a romantic relationship
with an attentive, kind man nothing like Bobby. But while memories of
the man she once loved and now mortally fears plague Fran waking and
dreaming, memories of a much-loved father torment troubled little
Robert. After a scuffle with some other children and an argument with
his mother, Robert does what he inevitably will: he calls Bobby
Benedetto. Fran discovers him and quickly hangs up, but the damage is
done. Her last bruises faded and gone from her skin but not from her
heart, Fran must face Bobby again in one final, brutal confrontation.
What she wins and what she loses there will determine what ultimately
becomes of her new life.
Fran's haunted existence, fully fleshed in flashbacks and self-analysis,
informs those whose imaginings of the how, what and why of spousal abuse
have been until now academic. Recurrently impassionate, detached prose
bares the horror of domestic battery. This book is for everyone who has
ever said "If it were me, I'd get out." Fran Flynn/Fran Bendetto/Beth Crenshaw
shows readers matter-of-factly that black and white (and black and blue)
can be far more difficult to judge when you're on the inside.