The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
I had a lot of fun writing Goodreads status updates for this one as I read through it.
You can see them here.
This was a rather intense one. I know it's called The Husband's Secret so I should have expected some mystery and twists, but there's some heavy stuff that these characters deal with! For example: grief, guilt, betrayal, the blurred line between right and wrong, and murder. There were also lots of secrets and tragedies.
It was rather dark and dense, especially for Liane Moriarty. Well, that's my opinion at least.
I've only read one other of her books, What Alice Forgot, which I RAVED and RAVED and RAVED about a while back now. I actually proclaimed What Alice Forgot to be the best book I read in 2010. Anyway, the point is, I didn't expect Liane to write something so... stodgy? But it turned out to be a success for her regardless of what I think because The Husband's Secret is her most popular book, and her sister Jaclyn Moriarty (one of my all time favourite authors everrrr) posted on Facebook that The Husband's Secret had gotten to #1 on the NYT Best Sellers list. It also came in at #5 for Best Fiction at the Goodreads Awards. Which was nice. Especially because Liane's an Australian author. It's nice to hear of Australian writers having global success.
There are many characters in this book. If you read some of my first status updates, you'll have seen me complain about this. It was only during the first 2 chapters though. I began reading, and realised every chapter had a new little cast of characters and I was like WHAT IS GOING ON? I can't deal with all of these nutcases. But then I got to know the characters, and realised they were worth my attention. And Liane wrote them all so incredibly well. An added bonus was that the chapters are rather short and the novel takes place across one week. So you get to see each of the three main characters and what happens to them within the same timeline. And all three are connected, by St Angelas (a primary school), so sometimes we got to see the same thing happen from three different perspectives, for example, a birdcage toppling off a six year old boy's head during an Easter Hat Parade. I thought that was particularly wonderful.
Liane Moriarty did such an excellent job in writing these characters. Cecilia, Tess, Rachel - they are all such ordinary women; nothing seemed particularly unique or exciting about their personalities, and what's more was the fact that they are extremely flawed people. But Liane painted their shames and disgraces and mistakes and flaws so well, so very well, that she made me curious to see how their lives would unfold. I was quite transfixed by these characters in spite of their vices and yet the author succeeded in making me just sit and observe them.
One of my favourite characters was Connor. Tess's fling/ex-boyfriend. I felt an incredible amount of sympathy for him, even though just one page-turn away there was Rachel, a grieving mother whose daughter had been mysterious murdered; or Cecilia, a wife who's having to carry on her shoulders a secret the size and weight of an iceberg, a secret that's not even her own. Connor just stood out to me as a funny, genuinely good and lovely person who didn't deserve all the grief, maltreatment or rejection that he got.
Now, I can't say The Husband's Secret was as funny as What Alice Forgot, but Liane Moriarty's writing certainly has retained the wonderful quirkiness and highly amusing hyperbolic metaphors that I know her for.
The lighter, funny bits definitely keep up somewhat of a balance between the stodgier, sadder issues underlying the story.
I don't want to give away any spoilers so this review has skirted around the plot for the most part, but the epilogue has been a point of contention so I thought I'd offer my take on it.
I feel as though the epilogue is detachable from the novel.
The last chapter's final line was a beautiful and poignant, "So it began". Sweet and laconic. The book could have ended there. The epilogue is full of facts. Or secrets, as it were. Interesting to know, perhaps, but not essential and certainly not true-to-life information. It gives insight to the characters' lives and how they could have been different, but it's basically the big 'WHAT IF'. The only relevant and sticking piece of information that struck me from the epilogue was the part about how Janie died. That got me a little choky and wet in the eyes, but the rest of the epilogue seemed like unnecessary information to me.
My rating: 4.25 stars
(Perhaps a strange score, but the extra quarter is absolutely warranted)