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.
... 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 ... Filled with incisive observations of the human and natural worlds alike, The Complicities is a beautifully novelistic exploration of profound ethical questions.
... forceful ... Urgent and personal, Complicities solidifies D’Erasmo’s reputation not just as a skilled shaper of disparate fictional worlds and beings, but as a fierce investigator of how it may feel to live inside them ... What makes the story come alive, to D’Erasmo’s enduring credit, is its persistent grounding in the physical ... Gracefully, suspensefully, D’Erasmo layers in backstories of key individuals in Alan’s life, allowing readers to piece together a composite portrait of that charismatic, smooth, elusive man...Each of their narratives almost stands as a small novel of its own: ultra-strange, ultra-human ... A great deal of marine science is itemized, including reportage on local and national policy-feuding. Despite this plot element’s passionate intentions and clear role to emblematize a different, towering complicity — that of our own in destroying the Earth — I struggled with the sense of its feeling imposed and, with its bountiful explaining, close to becoming an infomercial. D’Erasmo finally makes it work, tying Suzanne’s passion for the crucial symbolism of the whale’s death into her rather stunning later choice ... Of the novel’s assorted focuses — families, couples, love, sex, guilt, economics. ecological peril — the kaleidoscopic portrait of Alan most tantalizes. Here, D’Erasmo’s insights shine ... D’Erasmo’s writing is tight and flavorful, her thinking sharp, her characters warmly idiosyncratic, her causes timely, complex and morally freighted. Maybe that is more than enough.