Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty

For the first part of the book, The Husband's Secret has elements of Gone Girl which make it appealing--dark secrets revealed at turn; people with questionable motives. It never gets anywhere near as insane as Gone Girl, though the coincidences and overlap between characters do build up quite incredibly by the end. But, by not letting its characters stray into the psychotic, The Husband's Secret also remains a lot more relatable, which makes it a very different book by the end.

The book interweaves the stories of Rachel, whose daughter Janie was murdered as a teenager; Cecilia, a type-A woman who learns of a dark secret of her husband; and Tess, whose husband Will wants to leave her for her cousin Felicity. As alluded to before, the first half of the book is a build up in suspense, but by half way through, most of the big reveals have occurred. The second half of the novel, then, follows the consequences: what do you do when your life has been turned upside down?

What I got most out of the book was the fact that anger--and, maybe even more importantly, righteous anger--is still most harmful to the angry person. Even in circumstances where a person has every right to be furious at another, those emotions prey on the holder, not the person who's done wrong. Funnily, this was most hard for me to accept in the case of Tess. I could see where Rachel needed to move on from her fury about Janie's murder, but I wanted Tess to punish Will, to be vicious to him for straying in their marriage. Letting go of one's anger doesn't mean condoning the wrongdoing, but it is the only way to preserve relationships and yourself.

Less significantly for me, the book also focuses on the secrets (big and small) that we keep from one another. While I could certainly understand Cecilia's husband, John-Paul, keeping his secret, other characters' actions seemed utterly bizarre. Tess thinks she has social anxiety but has never told anyone? (and her husband never picked up on it?) Cecilia and John-Paul don't have sex for six months but Cecilia is ashamed to bring it up? Funnily, at the same time, I read a New York Times article that said, "Spouses who spent time alone with each other, talking, or sharing an activity at least once per week were 3.5 times more likely to be very happy in their marriage than spouses who did so less frequently." And all I could think was: there are enough spouses who don't talk once per week to make that statistic meaningful?! Clearly, the point is: talk with your family. It just surprised me that that was a point that needed to be made.

The epilogue really pushes the coincidences too much, but The Husband's Secret is still an enjoyable and quick read.

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