Black and Blue

Quindlen, Anna

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Mar-26-1998


Black and Blue is a novel portraying the new life of Beth Crenshaw, formerly Fran Benedetto, after her escape with her son Robert from a passionate marriage that had turned into an abusive nightmare. It chronicles how she left, why she stayed, and what she gave up--materially, professionally, emotionally--in her attempt to find a safe new life.

The book, written in the first person, includes many flashbacks as she chronicles the early signs of her husband Bobby’s rage that turned on her, her successful attempts at denial, the years of hiding her secret, her attempts at protecting her son from the knowledge of his father’s malevolence, and the final destructive act that gave her the courage to leave. Winding her way from New York to Florida, covering her tracks, helped by an underground network of women committed to saving battered women’s lives, Beth attempts to start over, always with the background noise of her history and ubiquitous fear of her husband’s appearance.

He does, of course, eventually show up at her home--Robert misses his father and phones him--and after beating her one last time, takes Robert with him. At the story’s end, we find Beth in a new marriage with a new daughter Grace, but her life is forever marred: "There’s not a day when I haven’t wondered whether I did the right thing, leaving Bobby. But of course if I hadn’t, there would have been no . . . Grace Ann. Your children make it impossible to regret your past. They’re its finest fruits. Sometimes its only ones."


This is a book that attempts to answer the tired, insulting, endlessly asked question concerning battered women, "Why does she stay?" The narrator manages to explain the conflicting, ambivalent feelings she has for her policeman husband Bobby, the complexities of leaving, and the huge price that must be paid for leaving, which for her included living in a shabby apartment, giving up her nursing license, barely having enough money for necessities, and leaving behind the only emotional support she had in family and friends.

Finally, after one beating that ended with Bobby’s jeer, "What are you gonna do, Frannie, call the cops?", she looked at her son Robert’s expression the next morning when he saw her bloody and bruised face: "I saw the kind of horror and fear that a normal kid would feel. But then it was gone again, his face flat and closed, as he asked me whether I’d had an accident. So many accidents during his childhood, and all of them lies. That’s why I left when I did, how I did . . . 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." An excellent book to examine one of the most significant health risks for all women.


Random House

Place Published

New York



Page Count