Friday, September 12, 2014

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (2013)

Ignore that the cover looks like a romance novel or a feminine hygiene product, because the design is misleading. Our main character, Cecilia, is a mother of three who sells Tupperware and is incorrigibly well-organized, efficient, and perfect. I get the feeling that many of the other mothers hate her. One day she finds a letter that her husband Jean-Paul has written to be opened only upon his death, but she reads it and learns a secret that will change her family forever.

Rachel is a secretary at the school Cecilia's daughters attend, and she is notable primarily because her daughter was murdered so many years ago. The killer was never caught. (You can see where this is going already, right?) Our third major character is Tess, who has just learned that her husband is in love with her cousin/best friend, and she returns from Melbourne to Sydney with her son to stay with her mother. Here, she runs into her ex-boyfriend, who also happened to be a suspect in the aforementioned murder. This, I think, is the only reason why Tess is even in this story.

This was a pretty engrossing book, and I consumed it over just a couple of days (I've been on a reading tear recently.) It was kind of a cheap thrill. It was predictable in many ways. Jean-Paul's secret is revealed about a third of the way through and it's exactly what I thought it was. But I don't think the point is to be surprised about the secret, but how the characters deal with it. Cecilia is put in an impossible position, and what you don't know is what she is going to do about it.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Tess star in their own dramas. Rachel is almost completely alone, having lost her daughter so many years ago, and her husband more recently. She still has her son Rob though, and his wife and their son. Little Jacob is the apple of Rachel's eye and when the novel opens, she learns that Rob and his family will be moving to New York. Focusing on all she has lost, and is continuing to lose, she turns her attention back to her daughter's unsolved murder.

Tess owns a business with her husband Will and her cousin Felicity, so they all work closely together and don't even really have any other friends. Felicity has always been rather overweight but recently has gotten skinny and looks gorgeous. This has apparently not gone unnoticed by Will. When he and Felicity tell Tess they have fallen in love, she is convinced it's a joke. But it's not, and she must work through her feelings of betrayal by the two people to whom she is closest.

Although the story takes place in Sydney, which I assume is rather a large city, it felt very much like a small town. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and they were all connected. It also all wrapped up quite neatly and I can't decide whether or not I liked that, but I am clear that I hated the epilogue. And because that's what I was left with, I became unable to manage rating the book on Goodreads.

Aside from that, it was pretty enjoyable, though I wouldn't be nominating it for any literary awards. But it kept my interest throughout and I found the narration quite witty. The real strength of the book is in the issues it brought up, many of which are things I've been thinking a lot about recently and which I think will make great discussion fodder at my book group next week.

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