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The Complicities

Review

The Complicities

For years, Suzanne blithely looked the other way, professing ignorance about financial matters as her family prospered thanks to her husband Alan’s illegal and unethical mismanagement of other people’s life savings (think Bernie Madoff here). After Alan’s crimes catch up with him and he’s put in white-collar prison, newly divorced Suzanne is desperate for a fresh start. So she moves to a small town on the less prosperous side of Cape Cod and --- using her maiden name --- starts working as a bartender and a massage therapist (despite the fact that her only “license” was a print-at-home souvenir of a dubious online course).

"Filled with incisive observations of the human and natural worlds alike, THE COMPLICITIES is a beautifully novelistic exploration of profound ethical questions."

Suzanne, who’s estranged from her young adult son, ignores the phone calls that otherwise would have alerted her to the fact that Alan is being released early due to good behavior. But by the time that happens, she already has been drawn into a drama of a very different type. A rare right whale has washed up on the beach outside of town. Suzanne becomes captivated by the attempts to save its life and obsessed with finding a solution so it won’t happen again. In doing so, she makes her own financial choice, one that ostensibly serves to salve her own conscience. In reality, though, it will have repercussions far beyond what Suzanne imagined, including tragic effects on the lives of people she has never met.

Meanwhile, Alan is seeking his own fresh start, pursuing a new relationship with a younger woman, a recovering addict who in turn is ready to believe the best about her new husband. But his past, and the ongoing reverberations of his earlier crimes, isn’t so easy to escape.

Told in an elliptical, nonlinear style, Stacey D’Erasmo’s THE COMPLICITIES introduces readers gradually to characters whose connection to the story only becomes apparent quite late in the game. It is a powerful interrogation of how individuals justify their actions, an exploration of the ways in which we claim the moral high ground, whether or not we can do so honestly.

As a character and as a narrator, Suzanne is both fascinating and often deeply unlikable, but her observations and realizations --- despite the lack of self-awareness at their core --- will resonate with readers both for their substance and for their irony: “Some things are just wrong. Some acts have consequences that compound. They rot and they stink, and they leak everywhere for years and years. They weigh so much that not even great teams of people and machines can carry them away.”

Filled with incisive observations of the human and natural worlds alike, THE COMPLICITIES is a beautifully novelistic exploration of profound ethical questions.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 23, 2022

The Complicities
by Stacey D'Erasmo

  • Publication Date: September 20, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN-10: 1643751964
  • ISBN-13: 9781643751962