'Tony and Susan' by Austin Wright

Literary editor

Reading an ex-husband's unpublished novel might seem a daunting endeavor, but Susan Morrow has been divorced from Edward Sheffield for 15 years, and they now exchange Christmas cards. He says that she has always been his best critic.

Susan is now an English teacher living with her heart surgeon husband in their suburban house with three children, a dog, a cat, and engraved checks and writing paper. But the book seizes her in the first few pages and eventually "nudges a certain alarm in her, a fear whose object she does not know."

Structured as a novel within a novel, Edward's tale of terror is a gripping page turner, but Susan reacts to it, and reflects on her life, in a way that brings the quiet desperation of Richard Yates' "Revolutionary Road" to mind.

Austin Wright, a literary critic, fiction writer and professor at the University of Cincinnati, died at age 80 in 2003, a decade after "Tony and Susan" was first published. Those of us who missed this novel the first time around must cheer the publisher's ingenuity in championing this book and helping it find an audience.

'Tony and Susan'
By Austin Wright
Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 326 pages

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