How is it possible that a small and innocent act can lead to far-reaching consequences?
Thankfully, neither canoes nor umbrellas were necessary when 15 Bookers descended on the home of Beverly Dossett, who not only hosted our final meeting of “our” year, but also provided the overview and discussion of this month’s selection, a female-character driven novel, The Husband’s Secret, by Australian author, Liane Moriarty. FYI, CBS has acquired the film rights and her latest novel, Big, Little Lies, has been optioned by HBO, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman.
The Husband’s Secret opens with the reference to Pandora’s Box, which was really a covered jar, but no matter. The analogy set up the story with a reminder of what happened in Greek mythology when you opened something that is to remain sealed…all the ills to plague humanity forevermore will be released, leaving only hope inside the box/jar. The author puts three women in impossible situations, intertwines their lives, and challenges them to find a way to land on their feet. Cecilia Fitzpatrick lives to be perfect – a perfect marriage, three perfect daughters, and a perfectly organized life. Tess O’Leary’s husband and her best friend/cousin/business partner, Felicity, confess they’ve fallen in love. Rachel Crowley, Catholic school secretary, whose daughter was murdered three decades ago, is convinced the school’s P.E. teacher is guilty of taking her life.
The title suggests that only one husband has a secret. As the story digs deeper, we find nothing could be farther from the truth. Moriarty gorges the reader with veiled relationships, guilt, temptations, and human imperfections drawing female characters, coated with a “thin veneer of bitchiness” using inner dialogue to ponder the motivations and psychology behind their actions. The “men of Husbands,” according to one reviewer, (a manly man no doubt) expressed disappointment that his gender is portrayed as either “studs,” “blithering idiots,” or “willful tools of the women in their lives.” Isn’t it interesting that in spite of the men being “ciphers,” the three women in the story all react to the choices made by their men to determine what to do next…Cecilia with the letter, Tess with the love affair, Rachel with her son’s family moving to New York.
Let’s talk. We did. Most read the novel and liked it, although expressed some confusion with all the characters especially in the beginning…too many too soon. We asked…if you’d found the letter would you have opened it…yes, without hesitation. If you found out your spouse/partner had committed a horrible crime, would you turn her/him into the police….well “it depends”…on current circumstances…would a confession to a crime committed in youth serve any purpose decades later? What about the family? But, the victim had one too and they didn’t know why she died. Does one act define you? Do you give up twenty years of being a good husband and father to punish your family by admitting to a tragic, stupid, mistake…Hadn’t he suffered enough guilt throughout the years by making himself a martyr for God’s forgiveness? We had two Bookers who would without doubt turn the “murderer” over to the authorities immediately. We loved Polly, disliked Felicity, and some could identify with Cecilia, Tess, and Esther. We talked about the parents staying together “for the children.” We discussed why Tess didn’t pick up any clues about the “love” brewing between her husband and cousin…Tess never considered her a “threat” because of her weight; Felicity felt she “wasn’t ever thin enough to have a real life.”
We talked about the advantages of writing in third-person past tense – it allows the author to be an “uninvolved” narrator telling a wider story after the action has already happened and the reader knows there’s a future.
On a personal note, my favorite part was when Tess’ Dad sent her the old-fashioned wooded compass to help her find her way when she was feeling lost…love that!
What do the Berlin Wall and Tupperware have in common? In this novel, the author deftly used both metaphorically to enhance the story. A wall is an immovable barrier…it is impenetrable, and isolates those on either side of it, until it falls. Cecilia’s wall – her perfection…Tess, her social anxiety…Rachel, the unsolved mystery of her daughter’s death consumed her every waking minute. Hidden within the wall are the secrets that divide the families, revealed only when the wall is dismantled. Cecilia’s connection to Tupperware wasn’t an accident as nothing organizes your life like bowls that fit together systematically arranging your pantry space in the process. In her case, she finds out that sometimes the lids just don’t fit.
We had some questions concerning the epilogue of the book. Why? The story is over…what more is there to say. One thought, it served as “a beautiful picture of justice” in its purest form…another, the novel began with Pandora’s Box and maybe it was fitting that the epilogue showed us that there indeed was hope left inside.
On the business side:
Thanks Sandy Molander for insisting we choose All the Light We Cannot See. Sandy saw the light before we did on this one – 2016 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Thank you to Gayle Robinson and Dian Jones for sharing so many books for us to read and pass on. Many members took a few to do just that and I still have some here for anyone interested in taking a look at the selection. They all destined for the garage sale, but for now they are available for our reading pleasure.
We will resume Bookers on September 8th at the home of Joanna Linder. MN and I will take care of the review of our summer read. We’ll discuss our book selections and solicit host homes at that meeting. Please let me know if in your summer reading you come across a good candidate for our 12th year of Bookers!
We are in the process of reading and considering several books including Kristin Hannah’s, Nightingale; The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain; Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani
Good summer reads:
The Stranger by Harlan Coben, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah; and Saving Gracie by Terry Lee.
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
Summer Break: June, July & August
September 8th: Bookers 12th year
The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Home of Joanna Linder
Reviewers: MN & JoDee
Have a wonderful summer of relaxing, enjoying our full lake, and reading.