Fifteen years ago, Susan Morrow left her first husband Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer. Now, she’s enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor’s wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband’s first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says.
As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. And as we read with her, we too become lost in Sheffield’s thriller. As the Hastings’ ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously, violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future and will change her life.
Susan gets a package in the mail from her ex-husband Edward. A man she left for another man. Just receiving the package stirs up memories for her. Memories of hurt and disappointment. Edward was in law school when they started dating and when they got married he gave it all up to become a writer. The thing was, he wasn’t a very good one. Now, receiving this package in the mail, Susan wonders what Edward’s ulterior motive is. Is he trying to thumb his nose at her? Will she find herself among the pages? And what kind of portrait will he paint of her if he does? Worried, she puts it aside…for months.
When Susan finds out that Edward will be coming to town over the Christmas break she can put off reading it no more. She sits down with it and…is mesmerized. It’s good. It’s not only good, it’s thrilling, and soon Susan gets so caught up in the book Nocturnal Animals and the story of Tony Hastings, it’s main character, she can’t put it down.
Tony & Susan is a novel within a novel. Not only are we reading about Susan and her critique of Edward’s book, but we are reading about Tony Hastings and the violence that befalls his family on their journey out of state on vacation. Sometimes, with a story within a story, it can get confusing. But this book, because of it’s clear cut lines between Susan’s quiet domestic life and Tony’s violent one, does not lose the reader. I found myself getting absorbed in the thriller that Edward wrote about and wondering myself if there is some hidden parallel between his book and their former marriage. What was I going to find out about them both in the end?
Written by the late Austin Wright, Tony & Susan is worth a read, even if just to see if you can figure out the subtleness of the message to Susan within its pages. 2.5/5 stars