Title: The Husband’s Secret
Author: Liane Moriarty
No. of Pages: 416
Origins: Amy Einhorn Books
Release Date: 30 July 2013
Bottom Line: Emotional and surprisingly exciting albeit somewhat predictable
“Three women. One secret. And a letter that will change everything — forever.
Tess. Rachel. Cecilia. Three women living three very different lives. But when Cecilia opens up a Pandora’s box, their lives will intersect in ways none of them could foresee.
Cecilia is the woman who seems to have it all: a successful career, a gorgeous husband, and three wonderful daughters. One day she finds an old tattered letter in the attic that’s addressed to her, to be opened only in the event of her husband’s death. But he’s still very much alive. When Cecilia casually mentions it to him on the phone, he laughs it off, telling her to put the letter away. Yet when he flies home early from an overseas business trip, and then frantically searches for the letter, Cecilia realizes there’s something important in it, something she needs to know. Yet even Pandora herself could not prepare Cecilia for what the letter reveals.”
Thoughts: The main issue with The Husband’s Secret is the fact that the secret is too predictable. John-Paul’s initial reaction to the found letter as well as his subsequent actions immediately increases a reader’s suspicions. In addition, the story is the type in which a reader instinctively knows that the lives of these three very different women will somehow intersect and will try to deduce the connections. All this results in a reader able to make an educated guess of what Cecilia will uncover when she finally reads the letter. This is a shame because it is an explosive secret, and one gets the impression that Ms. Moriarty was hoping to shock readers. Instead, the big reveal is rather anti-climactic.
That being said, the predictability is the only drawback of The Husband’s Secret, which turns out to be minor in the long run. Since Cecilia discovers the secret halfway through the story, it is apparent that it is not the main focus of the novel. Rather, it is the catalyst for everything that happens after the unveiling, as that is when the drama really begins in earnest. It is then when a reader begins to notice the tension building in each of the characters, something that had been a subtle factor in the story to this point. The speed with which everything grows out of control is spectacular and brings a greater appreciation for the phrase “spiraling out of control.”
While the story’s climax and denouement are fantastic, The Husband’s Secret is first and foremost a story about three very different women. Cecilia is the type of woman that is so easy to hate with her supreme organizational skills, volunteer work, extremely successful home-based business, three beautiful kids, a gorgeous husband, polished appearance, and über-cheerful demeanor. There is some degree of satisfaction to watch her fall apart as she reacts to news of her husband’s secret, but that only lasts so long before a reader sympathizes with her struggle to put her life back in order because it is when she is doing this that she reveals her humanity and not the superwoman she appeared to be.
While their personal tragedies are different, both Tess and Rachel are both the more initially sympathetic of the three women. However, just like a reader’s opinion of Cecilia changes, readers will also find their sympathies towards Tess and Rachel shifting as they reveal more of their characters. It is a fascinating exercise to watch one’s ever-changing perspectives towards all three women with the introduction of one new piece of information.
Packing an emotional punch, The Husband’s Secret explores the dynamics of a neighborhood and the unlikely connections between just three of its inhabitants. Cecelia, Tess, and Rachel burrow their way under the skin of a reader. There are some fairly major weaknesses, but the emotional drama the women experience compensate for them. The story flows rapidly and realistically, and by the time the somewhat predictable secret reveals itself, a reader is heavily invested in the fates of the three women. It is an interesting study of just how far one would be willing to go to protect a loved one.