What I Read: January 2015 Novels
This month I read only two novels. Both dealt with accidents, secrets, guilt and the impact of these on marriages.
Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline
“…life hinges on small moments and seemingly trivial decisions. ” -- Christina Baker Kline, Bird in Hand
Alison Gray is the central character of this novel, but her husband Charlie, best friend Claire and Claire’s husband, Ben, play major roles. Driving home from a book release party for Claire, Alison collides with another car when the driver runs a stop sign. A little boy riding in the front seat of that car is killed.
Alison's decision to have a second martini before driving, the reaction of her husband Charlie, and the absence of support from Claire all hint at currents running underneath the floating story of Alison and how she deals (and doesn’t) with her guilt. As we travel forward and backward in time (the reverse chronological order a clever approach that makes sense only when you simultaneously get to the end AND the beginning) we learn the history of Alison and Charlie's eight-year marriage, as well as the story of Charlie, Claire and Ben before Alison. When Charlie and Claire’s affair is no real surprise to the reader, how the story unfolds was, for me, both surprising and disappointing. I found Claire and Charlie to be completely unlikeable characters; Alison and Ben to be irritating in their inability to express the raw emotions they were certainly entitled to share.
I think Christina Bake Kline is an excellent writer, but this story and its characters left me feeling dissatisfied. At the very least, I would have liked to know more about Alison’s future. The author’s Q & A at the end was worth the read.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
“None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It's probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora.” – Liane Moriarty, the Husband’s Secret
This was the first book I read by Liane Moriarty, but it won’t be the last. She is a great writer, hooking you with laugh out loud observations, then reeling you in with a multi-layered, multi perspective read about parental and marital love.
If Bird in Hand built on currents through a story, The Husband’s Secret is all about ripple effects. Those seemingly innocent choices we make when no one is looking that can help or hurt others and sometimes even come back to us. Think karma. Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the kind of wife and mom we all love and loathe until one day she finds a letter that her husband, who is away on a business trip, has marked "to be opened only in the event of my death." Cecilia begins to unravel even before she opens the letter but, once she does she—and we—are taken out to sea.
All husbands – and wives – have secrets, but John-Paul Fitzpatrick's will impact many lives before this story ends. The warning is clear and reminds me of a modern day fable. But John-Paul isn’t the only character with a secret.
Rachel is the school secretary. She is a widow whose daughter, Janie, was murdered as a teen. Now her only living child, Rob, has announced that he, his wife and Rachel’s beloved grandson son are moving away. Tess is an advertising executive in business with her husband, Will, and her best friend from childhood, her cousin Felicity. Will and Felicity have just confessed they are in love.
How and why these characters intersect makes for an engaging and can’t-put-it-down read. And all the characters, men and women, feel like people you know—selfish but kind, flawed but loveable.