TONY AND SUSAN by Austin Wright


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 Twenty-five years ago, Susan Sheffield divorced her ineffectual husband Edward to marry heart surgeon Arnold Morrow. Now that Edward's asked her to read the novel he's finished, she's pulled into it in disturbing ways other readers may not fully share. Not that Edward's novel, Nocturnal Animals, isn't disturbing in its own right as it unfolds the story of Tony Hastings, an Ohio professor--like real-life novelist Wright (The Morley Mythology, 1977, etc.)--whose trip to his Maine summer home with his wife Laura and daughter Helen is disastrously interrupted by a carload of louts who force him off the road, separate him from Laura and Helen, drive him for miles, and abandon him alone in the middle of backwoods Pennsylvania. Lt. Bobby Andes, leading the search for the women the following day, inevitably find them raped and murdered, and Tony sinks into an apathetic fog from which he never fully emerges--despite a return to his job, a few fumbling attempts at resuming his sex life, and two calls from Andes asking him to come back east for a police lineup. The first time, infuriatingly, Tony can't make an identification, but the second time, he does identify a suspect, setting in motion the engine of his final calamitous return to life. Reading Tony's adventures over three nights, Susan feels herself slipping imperceptibly into an identification with his sense of death- in-life, reviewing her life since Edward--her first adulterous fling with Arnold, her brisk parting from Edward, the hollowness of her careful life since--and feeling uncomfortably called to account. Because the melodramatic novel-within-a-novel is so much more arresting than the subtle, ambiguous frame story, even readers who find Susan's reactions more fervently invoked than convincingly demonstrated will find much of interest here. Try throwing away the rind and eating the pulp.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-880909-01-4
Page count: 334pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993


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