Monday, December 16, 2013

The Husband's Secret: Lies, Seduction, and Skeletons in Closets

"There are so many secrets about our lives we'll never know."

Liane Moriarty's book The Husband's Secret takes a harrowing look at the damage of long kept secrets, and short term affairs - both emotional and sexual. The novel opens with Cecilia Fitzpatrick deciding whether or not to open a letter written by her husband, John-Paul, that she found in the attic when a stack of old tax receipts toppled over accidentally.

Two other story lines intersect Cecilia's troubles as she uncovers her husband's secrets. The second story line involves the crumbling marriage of Tess and Will right after Felicity, Tess's best friend and cousin, and Will sit Tess down to tell her that they are involved in a love affair that has yet to be consummated.  In Will and Felicity's love oblivion they believe that Tess will somehow consent to this love affair and possibly even allow all of them to live in the same house together.  In a fit of disbelief, Tess leaves Will and Felicity to sort things out while she and her son, Liam stay at her mother's home.

Meanwhile, Rachel Crowley, a school secretary, deals with her depression stemming from her husband's recent death, her son's latest news that he, his wife, and his son, Jacob (Rachel's only bright spot in her days) are moving from Australia to New York City for a great business opportunity, and Rachel still suffers from the horrendous murder of her only daughter, Janie, which after almost 30 years is still unsolved.

Does all of that sound like a soap opera?
It read like one, too.

Pop culture, modernity and history cross the lives of all three characters with thoughts on Tupperware parties, The Biggest Loser and the Berlin Wall.  Rather than making the story feel more relevant and fresh, Moriarty's narrative read almost farcically at times.  I liked the fact that even a serious book with the underlying theme that we never really know a person even when we think we do, didn't need to take itself so seriously, but at times I rolled my eyes at the dialogue or the twisted fates of the characters.  Moriarty relies heavily on the idea that "karma is a bitch" almost to a fault, but the absolution and redemptive nature of the plots kept me engaged until the end.  The flashbacks to the day Janie was murdered (and fast forwards of what awaited her in the life she never led) showed Moriarty's prowess as a gifted storyteller.

Although I raced through The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty and enjoyed parts of the book, I can't say I loved it.  At the end, even after the fast forward Epilogue, I couldn't quite wrap my head around what I didn't love about it.  Maybe it was the melodramatic way that the stories all intertwined around the tragic car incident close to the end.  Maybe it was the easy transition from marriage to love affair and back again for Tess.  Maybe it was the ease of forgiveness, or the way karma had to intercede even though John-Paul paid a lifetime's worth of penance.

If you need a book with a murder mystery, a steamy romance, a dissolving marriage, truths that are uncovered and paid for in ways that are almost unthinkable, and a neurotic, Tupperware-selling housewife who takes pride in her perfect life, The Husband's Secret might be the best book you have ever read.  

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