THE KEY TO SUSANNA by Hilary Norman


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 A skillful Danielle Steel clone, filled with tragedy, crabmeat omelets, and momentous nights at the London Ritz. Pulp vet Norman (Laura, 1994, etc.) shamelessly out-Steels her apparent role model with time-tested Steel trademarks--a story about a beautiful girl who's been abused early and often; a scene of Grand Guignol childbirth; and an improbable plot carried along by so many conjunctions that the reader has no time for fruitless analysis. All the analysis here belongs to psychotherapist-hero Peter Strauss, who's searching for the key to Susanna Van Dusen, a supermodel he meets at the hospital bedside of her husband Hawke, a world-famous British photographer dying of AIDS. (He's not gay, he's just had a male lover.) After Hawke's death, Pete becomes her therapist, and as he listens to the bruising (if incredible) story of her life, he finds himself falling in love with her. The story: At 13, Susanna is kidnapped by Matthew, a handyman at the convent where she lives, is raped, and then held captive in his tar-paper shack on Cape Cod. After she gives birth, without assistance, Matthew takes the adolescent Susanna and baby Abigail to live with the Van Dusens, a wonderful family near Boston. A terrified Susanna passes the baby off as her sister. Matthew flees when he is discovered trying to molest the family's daughter, and the Van Dusens become Susanna's and Abigail's foster parents. When Susanna finally tells Abigail the whole truth about her past, Abigail goes off to investigate and is kidnapped by her father and taken to the same tar-paper shack. Matthew is killed when a twister conveniently shatters the building. But wait: Before Pete and Susanna can sever their therapeutic relationship and become lovers, Susanna has yet has another horrible story to tell (this one about her crazed mother). A page-turner--and a preposterous jaw-dropper.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-94042-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996


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