Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: The Husband's Secret - Highly Recommend

Sheila, of the Deliberate Reader blog, has been mentioning several things that are, for her, bookish kryptonite. These things will draw her away from a title rather than suck her in. I'm sure every reader has their own criteria of elements that will immediately turn them back from consideration of a book. For me, a deadly blow comes if I think there is too much of an emphasis on sex and sexuality in a book. It might have a great hook, but if I think it will delve too deeply into responses to sex and sexual activities, then I tend to ditch the book. And I was tempted to ditch at the outset of this book, when one of the primary characters, Cecelia, begins to ruminate on her sex life with her husband, John Paul. But, I held on because I had a feeling that their recent difficulties in the bedroom might be an important piece to the initial hook of the story. I'm glad I did because I felt the writing was well-done, the plotting and pacing precise, and the resolution full of raw emotion.

When Cecelia stumbles upon a letter written by her husband to her, to be opened upon his death, she is torn between warring impulses to leave the letter alone or to open it and discover her husband's dreaded secret. Of course, my own impulse would be to open the letter, so I kept listening hoping to find out what the husband had to declare to his wife only upon his death. The answer to that hook leads the reader into a murky world of secrets full of the power to implode the lives of not only John Paul and Cecelia, but also their children's lives and many other lives.

At the same time, Tess O'Leary, is learning of her husband's new love interest, her very own cousin and closest friend, Felicity (someone who has been incorporated into their lives since the beginning of time, but has recently lost a ton of weight, altering her outward appearance). As they sit her down to declare their love and excuse it by saying they haven't acted on their desires, Tess must decide on a course of action and determine whether she wants to fight for what she had always thought was a good marriage or not. After she returns to her mother's home, with her son, Liam, she is further tempted by an attraction to an old boyfriend (see, the book is riddled with sexual liasons and sexual emphasis).

Meanwhile, Rachel Crowley is dealing with a deadly blow from her son and his wife, when they explain that they are taking her grandson with them and moving to New York City. She has already lost a daughter, who was murdered, and a husband, who died of natural causes, but left her alone to deal with the pain of the loss of their child. She doesn't know how she will cope with this further loss of her beloved toddler grandson.

I cannot find adequate words to express the skills this author demonstrated in weaving three separate tales into one cataclysmic climax. The reader is literally pulled along and sucked deeper and deeper into the stories until they converge in a moment that found me weeping as I scrubbed my kitchen floor while listening to the story. Not only is the story a good one (deeply entrancing), it is ripe with things to contemplate and I couldn't help but put myself into the positions of several of these characters as their lives played out in the story.

Perhaps I enjoyed the book more because I listened to it in audio form (it did get several low reviews by readers who felt it was predictable, and I did guess bits of it prior to the end, but I never anticipated the climax). I was enticed from the very first sentences. I walked more miles because I wanted to listen longer. Moreover, it was delightful to listen to the Australian accent for the reading of this book set in Australia.

I am hoping that my book club selects this as a 2016 read because I am desperate to discuss this book with someone else. It was a tour de force and a conversation-worthy topic. Despite the sexual content of the book, I cannot help but highly recommend it. For the most part, the inclusion of sexual content is necessary for the story line to play out in the way it does. Thankfully, the details are never graphic and never really made me terribly uncomfortable, just slightly uncomfortable. This will certainly make my top ten list at the end of the year. It was a fascinating, deeply disturbing, thought-provoking read. It will take a long time for my brain to let go of these characters and their troubled lives.

2 comments:

Kate Unger said...

I agree. This book was really good. I probably need to read it again because I cannot remember the specifics. I love Liane Moriarty. Have you read any of her other books? The Husband's Secret is actually my 3rd favorite by her. I liked What Alice Forgot better. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE Big Little Lies. My son started kindergarten this year, and I listened to that book the spring before. It really resonated with me. I love the friendships and the investigation into the murder. The school politics and drama were just so fun to read about. She is definitely one of my favorite writers now.

Wendy said...

Yes, Kate. I read What Alice Forgot with my book club a few years back and really enjoyed her thought-provoking story. I think I started Big Little Lies but had to return it to the library before I got far enough in to really be hooked. I will look for it again now that you have declared it to be your favorite Moriarty book. If I can find it in audio form, all the better.