The Husband’s Secret

9780399159343_p0_v4_s260x420What if – you found a letter with instructions to open after the writer died, but that person was still alive – would you open it?  I would not be able to resist, and when Liane Moriarty teased with that cliffhanger through several chapters – about 200 pages – of The Husband’s Secret, keeping the contents hidden, the speculation of what is in that letter is as much fun as learning the actual content.  If you remember Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot, you know she can take an improbable storyline and drench it with humor, pathos, and even a few life lessons.

Three lives intersect in this drama: Cecilia finds her husband’s sealed “do-not-open-until-after-death” letter in a stack of old tax forms, while he is on a business trip; Tess flees from Melbourne to Sydney with her young son when she discovers her husband and best friend have fallen in love – and asked that they all live together as one big family; Rachel’s beloved two-year-old grandson is about to relocate with his family to New York City, as she continues to search for the murderer of her teen-age daughter, killed twenty years ago.  Yes, there is a murder, but the mystery of whodunit is solved early in the tale, with consequences and suspicions connecting these three women’s disparate lives.

The story premise is captivating – I read it quickly to know the outcome, and Moriarty does produce an unexpected surprise at the end.  After the shocking climax, the denouement offers more likely “what if” scenarios that have a nostalgic effect, but the clear message to be responsible for yourself, not everyone else, can connect to all of us who get tired of being good all the time.

Hard to categorize Moriarty’s style – more than chick lit, mystery thriller, romance, beach read – and always satisfying.  Now I’m looking for some of her earlier books – seems there are quite a few I’ve missed from her website.

Review of “What Alice Forgot”

The Last Secret

Not an uplifting story but certainly suspenseful, Morris stays true to her dissection of ordinary people struggling through life (reference her Oprah pick, later a TV movie – Songs in Ordinary Time). In  The Last Secret, Morris showcases mistakes made in youth that follow into adult lives with an unintentioned ripple effect, unescapably touching others’  lives.

Mary McGarry Morris creates an absorbing story about the superficial lives people create to hide not only their feelings and real selves but also to compensate for their own inadequacies.   Nora, as the main character with a perfect life and family, unravels as her husband’s infidelity with the best friend predictably changes relationships and the children’s equilibrium.

The family-run newspaper business is the folcrum of all family negotiations. The horror of news seeps in, as 9/11 happens, then the war, even news of young friends being killed.   Morris implies that the personal horror and wars within the characters supercede all this. Their concern is false; their attention is for themselves.

As the villain, Eddie gains power and access through Nora’s insecurities. He becomes the foil for the incipient best friend/lover Robin, and finally morphs into an obsessed lunatic. Yet, without Nora’s self-doubt and guilt, the villain would have no hold.

Morris ends her story with a sardonic observation – the truth may be what you believe it to be, and,of course, secrets never stay secret.