Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

If you found an envelope addressed to you that you were only supposed to open and read if the writer was dead but that person was still alive, what would you do? Would you stop to think just how much the contents could change your life, could upend everything you thought you knew? What if the contents had the potential to change things for other people too, upending their lives as well? Would you open it or leave it? Give in to the temptation or resist? Would you open Pandora's box? Liane Moriarty's novel, The Husband's Secret, revolves around this very situation, keeping the reader reading to the very end, even though the secret itself isn't hard to figure out.

Cecilia is rooting around in the attic one day when she comes across a letter from her husband, one that was addressed to her to be opened only in the event of his death. He is only on a business trip, not dead, so now Cecilia, a typical suburban mom with a pretty enviable life, has to decide whether she's going to open the letter or not. Meanwhile, Tess has started a successful advertising business with her husband and her cousin only to now be confronted by Will and Felicity telling her that they are in love. She takes her young son Liam and moves back home to take care of her mother. Rachel Crowley is devastated when her son and daughter-in-law tell her they're moving from their Sydney suburb across the world to New York. She won't be able to see her grandson daily anymore and she doesn't know how she'll bear it. And Rachel has already borne an appalling amount of heartbreak after her daughter Janie was murdered on her 16th birthday. The lives of all three of these women will come together in the aftermath of the discovery of the letter, uncovering dark secrets and straining relationships almost beyond endurance.

The mystery of Cecilia's husband's secret is not terribly difficult to figure out but it is only the initial driver of the plot, not the climax. As the three story lines come closer and closer, the sense that something is going to happen ratchets up appreciably. Each of the three main characters have distinct voices and different challenges although each of them is grappling with the messiness of life and relationship. The novel is dramatic and mostly enjoyable although I did find it frustrating at times. As the women's lives move forward, all of the extensive foreshadowing pays off. The characters here feel very real although their lives can border on soap operatic and their resolutions are quick and tidy. The epilogue, a sort of what if, the knowledge that could have saved so much heartbreak, makes a bit of a mockery of these situations that Moriarty has so carefully drawn and could have been left off. Rife with issues of guilt and morality this is not light exactly, but it is a curl up by the fire for a couple of hours or pop it in a beach bag kind of book.

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