“ELECTRIFYING—A TREASURED WRITER WORKING AT THE HEIGHT OF HER POWERS.” —Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears
A haunting and emotionally fraught story of a woman dealing with the ripple effects of her husband’s financial fraud—and with what she knew, or pretended not to know, about it
After her husband Alan’s massive white-collar crimes are exposed, Suzanne’s wealthy, comfortable life shatters: Alan goes to prison, and Suzanne files for divorce. Ignoring a steady stream of calls from her ex at Norfolk State Prison, Suzanne thinks she can cleanse herself of all connections to her ex-husband and their old life together. Instead, she decamps to a Massachusetts beach town where she creates a new life and identity.
Then Alan is released early, and the many people whose lives he has ruined demand restitution. At the same time, awestruck and obsessed by the spectacle of a major whale stranding on a beach near her home, Suzanne makes an apparently high-minded decision that in turn reverberates not only through Alan’s life as he tries to rebuild but also through the lives of their son, Alan’s new wife, his estranged mother, and, ultimately, Suzanne herself.
A resonant and bitingly perceptive story about the people next to the bad guys—the queasy and ambiguous territory people like Suzanne inhabit as they stand by, and the ways in which they try to thread the needle of their culpability—The Complicities is a searing look at moral responsibility, and about who, in the end, pays for a crime.
Three women consider their relationships with a white-collar criminal in this perfect outing from D'Erasmo (Wonderland). The lion's share is narrated by Suzanne, whose ex-husband, Alan, "did things with people's money that you aren't really supposed to do" when they were married. After the divorce, Suzanne moves to Chesham, Mass., a down-at-the-heels Cape Cod beach town, to figure out her next move. The second woman is Lydia, whom Suzanne describes as "young, willowy, blonde." Lydia, who is partially disfigured from a car accident, falls in love with Alan after he's released from prison; her take on Alan is that "he'd done his time." Then there's Sylvia, Alan's estranged mother, a former "wild child" in Suzanne's view, from whom he inherited his talent with numbers. Into this nuanced story D'Erasmo drops an unexpected fifth character, a whale that beaches near Suzanne's new home in Chesham. The whale—enormous, otherworldly, and in distress—awakens a part of Suzanne that she never knew existed. "Maybe," she thinks, "all of our misfortune had happened to bring me there, to meet and help this grand, suffering creature." The sentiment leads her to an act with cascading and devastating consequences for Lydia, Sylvia, and Alan. With smooth shifts in perspective and understated and precise prose, D'Erasmo demonstrates a mastery of the craft. The result is propulsive and profound.