Study Guide

Black and Blue

by Anna Quindlen

Black and Blue Summary

Synopsis

Black and Blue by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anna Quindlen is the story of Fran Benedetto, a woman who has been ravaged by domestic abuse. At the start of the novel, Fran has already run away with her young son, Robert, to escape the abuse of her husband Bobby, a police officer. Fran uses Patty Bancroft and Company, a network committed to rescuing battered women, to escape her home in New York and travel to Florida, where she and her son take on new identities. The two set up residence in a small, unattractive house, and Fran tells everyone that her name is Beth Crenshaw and that her son’s name is Bobby. Fearing that she will give away her identity, Fran hides her credentials and can only find work as an in-home caretaker. Although they live in constant fear and their living conditions are meager, Fran and Robert begin to make friends and adjust to their new lives. Fran even becomes romantically involved with Mike Riordan, a local gym teacher who befriends Fran and her son.

Soon, however, Robert begins to miss his old life and his father. He cannot cope with maintaining the secret life that his mother has created. In school, Robert is given a project by his teacher to create a family tree, and simply listing his mother as his only relative is unacceptable. Fran tries to convince her son that he must lie for their protection, but Robert breaks down one night and calls his father in New York. Fran catches Robert on the phone and immediately disconnects the call, but it is too late. Bobby has the call traced and flies to Florida to confront his wife.

When Bobby shows up at her home, Fran tells Bobby that she refuses to go back with him. True to form, Bobby lashes out at her physically. This time, Fran fights back until Bobby finally grabs hold of her neck, rendering Fran unconscious. Mike finds her the next day, but Bobby is gone and has taken Robert with him. Fran and Mike hire a private investigator, but it is as if Bobby and Robert have disappeared. One day, however, a message is on Fran's answering machine—Robert saying that he is all right. Fran never sees him again. Although everyone tells her that she ultimately made the right decision to leave Bobby, she is never quite sure.

Published in 1998 by Random House, Anna Quindlen’s third novel, Black and Blue, became an instant success and was selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Praised for its development of suspense and intense emotion, Black and Blue was a New York Times best-seller and well received by readers across the country.