The Husband’s Secret

Read:   June 2014

Author:  Liane Moriarty

Published:  2013

Genre:  Fiction

Pages:  394 (hardcover)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s Score:  Scoring Great Book

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read: ‘My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…’ 

“Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death.  Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others, as well.  Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive.

“Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother.  Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home.  But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. 

“Compelled to clear himself of suspicion, James starts his own investigation and finds himself immersed in a web of intrigue, ultimately uncovering long-hidden secrets about his brother’s life that could easily be the very reasons he was murdered.”  – from the Amazon synopsis.

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Lady Esbe’s Review

This is the story of primarily three women whose lives are intertwined by a long ago event that affects two women directly and the third indirectly.  Ultimately, despite women’s seemingly shared experiences, I found the story to be primarily about each one’s personal battle with obsessive to self-indulgent behavior.  As the story build’s, this study in their behavior causes you to push ahead to find a solid resolution.

One of the main three characters is Cecilia.  She’s like a Stepford wife on crack.  However, her obsessive nature is more about perfectionist self-absorption and appearances versus actually being a good person.  Cecilia is the blissfully happy married mother of three, who is also the head of the Australian version of the PTA at her daughters’ school and a successful Tupperware sales woman.  She seemingly has it all together.  However, she falls woefully short because her obsession with outward appearances than what is actually going on is sad.  When she discovers her husband’s secret, she becomes even more annoying than she was before she finds out.  While I don’t agree with her husband’s actions of leaving such an earth shattering secret in a letter to be disseminated upon his death (clearly it is unmanly and quite pathetic to leave your wife to clean up a mess you made long before you even knew her!), I definitely found no empathy for her because she deliberately deceived him and read the letter for her own pretentious, self-indulgent whims.

Cecilia is more than draining to me.  Every time there was a scene with her, I found myself reading as fast as I could because she was just that…ridiculous.  The question I wrestled with is whether the husband’s secret, gained before he even knew of his wife’s existence was something she should be angry about or if should she chalk it up to the life before her?  To what extent should she be angry?  Is it because she was lied to (lie of omission) or because she found out he was going to leave her with this terrible burden upon his death? You would think I would be able to muster some empathy for her, I just can’t.  She’s so self absorbed all I feel is disgust and dislike.

On the other end of the spectrum and the person who has the least involvement in the direct circle of events of years past is Tess.  Tess is merely a bystander with her own set of issues.  As a self-diagnosed sufferer of Social Anxiety Disorder, Tess is extremely shy and returns to her childhood home in the wake of her husband, Will and cousin, Felicity, announcing that they decided they were in love and wanted to give their relationship a go.  Upon return to Sydney, she encounters an old flame that is the obsession of one of the other central characters.  I feel for Tess.  Of the characters, I find her not nearly as annoying, but annoying enough to make me fly through her storyline.  I’m only empathetic toward her character to a point.  While I feel her husband’s and cousin’s betrayal was stinging, in relation to other’s issues in the story, her’s was the most, minor.  However, all things are relative.  I felt she acted rashly but understandably considering her circumstances.

Alas, the character I have the most inner turmoil about, Rachel.  Rachel is the school secretary at the school where Cecelia’s trio of daughters , and now Tess’s child attends.  More than this, Rachel is the mother of the murdered Janie.  Janie is the linking thread in this tale of morbid woe and introspection.  It has been twenty-eight years since her demise and we are subject to her grief and obsessive desire for Conner Whitby, once a potential suitor to Janie, and ex-boyfriend of Tess, to be Janie’s murderer.  Rachel’s life was never quite the same once Janie died.  She let her grief consume her and suspicions grow and taint her waking thoughts against someone who was only guilty of loving her daughter.  Rachel’s skewed perception of Conner causes her to act, irrationally, but seemed perfectly rational to her in the moment.  Rachel obtains vengeance, but is it as sweet as she thought it would be considering the unintended, but predictable recipient of her wrath causes her to rethink her behavior?

All in all, it was an enjoyable read.  I read it for another book club and thought it definitely merited a review.  Most characters were annoying to me (nothing new there when it features mostly women) because I couldn’t completely reconcile their behaviors, beliefs and reactions as to what I would or wouldn’t do.  The different levels of obsession, self-denial, misinterpretation were so vast, all you can do is say, “I have no idea how I would have handled that situation.”

Despite note being able to relate to any of the main characters, I did enjoy the read.  It was hard for me to get into it but I knew I was just as curious as to what the secret was as that darn Cecelia.  Luckily I didn’t have to lie to find out what happened.   So if you are looking for a book that explores different levels of betrayal  and is messy (in a wonderful way) and gives you a nice little summary of a resolution, this is the book for you.

Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.

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