After her husband Alan's decades of financial fraud are exposed, Suzanne's wealthy, comfortable life shatters. Alan goes to prison. Suzanne files for divorce, decamps to a barely middle-class Massachusetts beach town, and begins to create a new life and identity. She tells herself that he, not she, committed the crimes. Then Alan is released early, and the many people whose lives he ruined demand restitution. But when Suzanne finds herself awestruck at a major whale stranding, she makes an apparently high-minded decision that ripples with devastating effect not only through Alan's life as he tries to rebuild but also through the lives of Suzanne and Alan's son, Alan's new wife, his estranged mother, and, ultimately, Suzanne herself.
A tricky and absorbing tale about crime, punishment and the lies we tell ourselves ... Into [Suzanne's] new, lonely life a bomb is dropped, in the form of a beached whale. Seemingly out of nowhere it appears, immense and struggling to survive on the shore. In less capable hands, this beast might feel like a whale of a metaphor, but D’Erasmo commits to its extraordinariness and the specificity of its mammalian distress ... The problem of the whale takes up a lot of real estate in The Complicities. But the novel makes a different, rather remarkable turn in the second section, which homes in on a cast of supporting characters and gives them voice — sort of ... Suzanne seems to loosen her storytelling grip, opening it up to Lydia’s and Sylvia’s perspectives, this wobbly orbit of women around Alan ... Suzanne may appear to be generously allowing some light into the cracks, but really what she’s doing (what we understand her to be doing) is carefully arranging herself to show off her best angle.
As in all her finely wrought, shrewdly piercing novels, D’Erasmo keeps us recalibrating our perceptions. The details about the whale are dramatic and deeply affecting. Every human exchange is fraught, and our feelings about Suzanne rise and fall like the tides. An arresting and intricately spun inquiry into talent, resentment, and risk, love and betrayal, self and community, guilt and retribution.
Full of lingering questions ... D’Erasmo is admirably skillful in moving the story backward and forward through time ... Intriguing and sharply drawn characters ... D’Erasmo’s descriptions are vivid. Her similes and metaphors are often explosive.