Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beaten Black and Blue

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 of 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, every day is a chance to heal, to put together the pieces of her shattered self. And every day 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...
Title: Black and Blue
Author: Anna Quindlen
Start & Finished: 6/7/08-6/8/08
Published: 1998
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 293
Genre: Fiction

Oprah’s book club is known for picking sad or even downright depressing reads and they stayed true to that with their April 1998 pick of former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen’s book Black and Blue. She had retired from her career as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist to write full time a year before the book was published and it was also adapted into TV movie starring Mary Stuart Masterson and Anthony Laragia in 1999.

In an interview, Mrs. Quindlen said that she will the first to tell you that her book “is not easy to digest” but that she wanted to write a story about marriage. She did no research for the book and claims that every bit of it is fiction too (unlike some of her previous works that reflect parts of her life). I’m one of the first to say that this came as a little bit of a shock to me because while I’ve never been in an abusive relationship before I have read plenty of stories like this one and a good majority of them are personal experiences for the writer. It just seems incredibly real!

This was the first time I had read anything by this author and yet I knew better than to expect a happy ending because her heroine Fran just goes along letting things happen to her. She only really does two things in the whole novel that “rocks the boat," so to speak and that is when she takes her kid and runs from her abusive (cop) husband and when she refuses to relocate after the organization that helped her run away tells her she needs to move again. Other than that, she just drifts along just letting things and people come into her life. Don’t get me wrong, she was a likeable character, I just wished she had done more!

Normally I would never have picked this book up on my own even though I have read and enjoyed a few Oprah picks before but one of my online groups was reading it. I can’t say I’m sorry I read Black and Blue because Anna Quindlen is a masterful author but at the same time there was quite a lot I disliked…. especially the ending. It was so disappointing and I think the ending is why only three people (out of at least 20) in the group said they enjoyed the book. Quindlen said:

"People are so invested in happy endings, I think that's why people are so frequently disappointed in their own lives, because they've had a bellyful of happy endings in film and fiction and they don't quite understand why it doesn't happen that way. And I think good literary fiction mirrors real life and I certainly think that this book does."
Moreover, while I could probably agree with her because the ending did make sense, I would still have enjoyed a bit more closure or something. I would almost rather have had this story written from the point of view of Fran’s son Robert.

Links: Book (Wikipedia), Author (Wikipedia), Oprah article
Interview: BookPage (Quote above came from here)

Author Interview with Charlie Rose:

Picture Explanations
Fran's husband constantly beat her up. He even broke her collarbone.
Ferris Wheel: Mike and "Beth" (Fran) take a bunch of kids to the carnival to celebrate the first win of the peewee basketball team that Robert is on and that Mike coaches.
Crowbar: Fran keeps a crowbar under bed for protection
Running: Fran meets Mike while out running something she has always loved doing.


  1. I haven't read this particular title, but I have loved the three Quindlen books I've read: One True Thing, Rise and Shine, and How Reading Changed My Life. I would encourage you to try one of those.

  2. My mother-in-law gave me a Quindlen book for my birthday one year, but I still haven't read it. I want to, but it hasn't made it to the top of my TBR pile yet. I've heard mention of Black and Blue before. It's probably one that I would be drawn to.

  3. Carrie: If I ever do decide to read another one of her books I'll make sure to keep these titles in mind.

    Wendy: I liked the book okay, the ending just left a bad taste in my mouth.

  4. I'm pro-realism. Good or bad ending, I'd prefer it to make sense. That said, I have had a belly full of bad endings and can only take so much of Oprah's club of depressing books. Ya know?

  5. Sounds really sad and a bit disturbing, but really compelling all the same.

  6. this does sound like an intense read. I know, Oprahs book club selections tend to be a bit depressing.

  7. I read this one years ago but I remember liking it. I would say One True Thing was better also.

  8. J. Kaye: Oh of course, a happy ending that doesn't make sense is like cotton candy instead of something a little more substantial like cake. :) Anywho, I'd like to know why Oprah's club picks some of the most depressing books I have ever read!

    Nymeth: Oh it really was!

    Naida & Tracy: I really liked it, I was just disgusted with the ending. I'll probably be a little hesitant about reading another book by her anytime soon :(

  9. Ladytink_534 ~ They did all use to be like that. Remember? Way, way, way, back...when she was seriously overweight. In the first couple of years of doing this book club thing, she totally rocked with her selections. Now, I listen to reviews from other bloggers before wasting my time. :( Very sad.

  10. I think it's okay for fiction to mirror real life, but that doesn't mean a story shouldn't have enough structure to feel as if it's complete, if that makes sense. That is, to me, part of the point . . . the author is telling a story with a beginning, middle and end. I see J. Kaye feels exactly the same as I do about Oprah's selections. There's nothing wrong with a happy ending if it fits, in my humble opinion.

  11. J. Kaye: I read a couple of her selections and really liked them but then after awhile I kept getting books that while still good, where also really depressing. I guess I know why now!

    Bookfool: *Applause* I agree! She really could have had a happy ending but during the last few pages it was like she wanted to end it on a depressing note and nothing would stand in her way. There were a couple of times when she could have taken another path and ended up with a better more satisfying ending but she had decided what she wanted. The part that gives the reader a little hope, her editor made her put it in! She later said it was perfect but still, ugh.

  12. Ladytink_534 ~ Did you ever read THE ROAD?

  13. At least the ending made sense, even if you didn't like it. There's nothing worse than an ending that comes out of nowhere and leaves you scratching your head.

    I've never read this book. I don't think it's for me. When I read that the abusive husband was a cop, cliche was the first word that popped into my head. I've heard that Quindlen is a good writer, though. I'll have to see what else she's written.


  14. Anna: Yeah I thought cliche too but apparently she was one of the first people to work with that. The way it ended made me thing that there might be a sequel of something because it just kind of stops. Everything is just about wrapped up though.

  15. I really liked Black and Blue but had no idea it was made into a movie! I'm going to see if my library has it.



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