Wow! I rarely give out 5 stars for a novel, it has to be exceptional, and this is. A difficult review to write without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that the writing is what makes it exceptional. Moriarty develops each character with a skill that has the reader often wondering... what would I do in this case? The way she strings the relationships together make this fiction novel totally believable, and has the reader caring about each character, drawing us in and reading far later than we intended to.
We don't always make the the right choices in life. Sometimes not making a choice is a choice in itself. This is a thought-provoking, emotional, and masterfully crafted novel focusing on the complexities of relationships, secrets, forgiveness, trust and love, that will have you thinking about this novel long after you've finished it. The novel also has a couple of back-stories going on as well, it's not all about the husband's secret, but all the pieces are intricately woven, bringing it to a satisfying conclusion.
In my humble opinion, I loved the ending (except for the fact that it was indeed ending.) The epilogue was my favorite part, actually. It reinforced a suspicion I had about the "secret" earlier in the novel, but also gives us a look at everything from other "what if" perspectives. I will definitely read more by this Australian author. Highly recommended for book clubs, there is a lot to discuss. Don't miss it. Thanks to Amazon for the opportunity to review the uncorrected proof (advance readers copy) prior to its release.
on April 3, 2013
I am a huge fan of Liane Moriarty and I have enjoyed every single one of her novels, most recently What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotist's Love Story. The Husband's Secret is her fifth adult fiction novel and for me, her best yet.
"For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick
To be opened only in the event of my death"
She found the envelope amongst a stack of old tax records and imagined it contained a sentimental message, given it was dated just a few days after the birth of their first child, fifteen years ago. Cecilia has no idea that the letter will blow her world apart.
The story of The Husband's Secret unfolds from the third person perspectives of three women, Cecilia, Tess and Rachel. At first the connections between these women are peripheral but the secret Jon-Paul has been keeping for decades will change them all.
Cecilia has been married to John-Paul for fifteen years, they have three bright and beautiful daughters and a busy, happy life. Cecilia is the P&C president, a successful Tupperware host and her neat and orderly world is shattered when her husband returns early from a business trip.
Tess is devastated when her husband announces he has fallen in love with her best friend, cousin and business partner, Felicity. Her only thought is to escape and she abandons her life in Sydney to return to her childhood home. Tess isn't interested in renewing old friendships but finds she can't resist the attentions of an old flame.
Every day is an effort for Rachel. It is only the presence of her toddler grandson that relieves the grief that has haunted her since her teenage daughter was murdered more than twenty years ago, and now her son and his wife are moving to New York. Bereft, Rachel renews her obsession with the man she suspects murdered her daughter, a man that teaches at the school where she is a secretary, a man she is convinced is really a monster.
With consummate skill, Moriarty winds her way through a minefield of moral ambiguity as her story explores the very personal implications of choosing between right and wrong. I'm desperate to avoid spoilers so I can say little except that the author challenges the simplistic notions of guilt, of punishment, of justice and redemption.
The Husband's Secret is so successful in large part because of Moriarty's wonderfully crafted characters. The everyday rhythms of their lives render these complex women familiar somehow and I quickly became invested in their fate. As a mother myself I understood each women's concerns about protecting their children and I empathised with them as they struggled to decide how best to do so.
The Husband's Secret is a compelling, thought provoking novel, inspired by an article about real life deathbed confessions and their surprising consequences. An intriguing examination of conscience, love, betrayal and forgiveness this novel will stay with you well after the last page has been turned.
I became a big fan of Liane Moriarty's novels after reading "The Hypnotist's Love Story"; she writes compellingly and realistically of modern marriage, betrayal, joy and heartbreak. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review her latest, "The Husband's Secret", which I thoroughly enjoyed.
There are three main characters, Cecilia, Rachel and Tess, who are all experiencing upheavals in their lives. Moriarty excels at describing how the quotidian details of one's life can change due to the "before and after" of cataclysmic events. She deftly uses both Tupperware and the Berlin Wall as metaphors for sealing in and keeping out.
The novel is about secrets, and I don't want to reveal any of them because Moriarty does it so brilliantly in the novel. Basically we are asked, as observers, to contemplate how a person can live with a huge and terrible, secret. And how can you live knowing someone else's huge and terrible secret? Human existence is complicated and messy and far from black and white/good and bad. Humans make strange and often irrational choices. Are they always indefensible? These are the kinds of things that Moriarty is so good at dissecting for her readers, and why we keep coming back for more.
Without revealing anything, I want to say a word about the ending. I expect some readers are going to have a problem with the climax and the denouement. I thought about it for a while after finishing the book and before sitting down to write this review, and I decided that I'm fine with it. I think Moriarty made the right writing and plot choices here and it worked for me. I highly recommend this novel.
on April 1, 2013
I loved all of Liane Moriarty's previous books, and was therefore very excited to find out that her latest novel was available for download from Amazon. It quickly solved my dilemma of the dreadfully difficult decision of which book on my looooooong tbr list to read next (maybe if I was as organised as Cecilia I would have a better system than the eeny-meeny-miny-mo method I usually employ, coupled with much nail-biting and doubt over my final decision). And The Husband's Secret did not disappoint - Moriarty's gift of making her characters almost real flesh-and-blood people, coupled with the offer of an unexpected roster day off from work, made for an intense read-a-thon which saw me finishing this book in a few hours of sheer reading bliss.
From the premise of the novel to the very last detail of its execution The Husband's Secret had me totally in its grip and still causes some soul searching even now after the last page has been turned. What would you do if you found a letter written to you by your husband years ago, marked "to be opened in the event of my death"? Cecilia of course wants to do the right thing - she is the queen of proper decision-making (no eeny-meeny-miny-mo for her), and decides to ask her husband John-Paul about it first. His reaction is so baffling that for once Cecilia does give in to temptation - and opens the letter. Its contents are so startling, so mind-blowing that her life, and that of their three daughters, can never be the same again. No matter of organising, smoothing-over or patching-up will ever fix this mess, and for the first time in her life Cecilia finds herself totally out of her depth.
Told in the third-person narrative, the book's chapters are written from the perspective of three different people, who are seemingly unconnected in the beginning of the novel.
Tess, part owner and operator of a small advertising agency in Melbourne and mother of a six-year old son, has little idea of how her life is about to change when her husband and her cousin take her aside in the middle of her favourite TV show to confess that they have fallen in love. Feeling betrayed and heartbroken she takes her son and flees to Sydney under the guise of helping her mother cope after breaking her ankle. It is there that she runs into an ex-boyfriend she last saw when she was nineteen, and who is still very attracted to her.
Rachel, who after twenty-eight years is still mourning the tragic death of her teenage daughter Janie, is having to face losing her beloved grandson when her son and daughter-in-law announce their planned move to New York. This decision, coupled with the imminent anniversary of Janie's death, brings back renewed feelings of loss and grief for Rachel, who contemplates a lonely life on her own in Sydney.
Through Cecilia and the startling revelation in John-Paul's letter these three women's lives become intertwined in ways none of them could have imagined.
I loved the premise of the book, the question of "what if" which seems to have become a popular theme in modern literature. Perhaps because every one of us at some stage in our lives will ask this question: "What if I had acted differently? How would my life have changed?" Moriarty answers this existential question perfectly in her epilogue, bringing together all the threads of the story and presenting a very satisfying finale - but enough said, there will be no spoilers from me.
Inspired by real-life death-bed confessions, Moriarty's novel raises a lot of moral and ethical questions of what constitutes "the right thing". I may have been quite black-and-white in my answer prior to reading this novel, but vacillated constantly between different answers as several angles were explored. I may be a terrible decision maker, but in the face of such controversy, even the super organised Cecilia never stood a chance (of course she had a lot more to lose as well). And just when you may have thought that "the right thing" is pretty clear, the author challenges it with some startling revelations at the very end of the book. Amazing.
What I also love about Moriarty's writing is the authenticity of her characters. All three main protagonists are the women-next-door, the mothers you see at the school gates, the members of your bookclub or the people standing in front of you in the supermarket queue. It brings the events unfolding even closer to home, thinking that this could happen to anyone, at any time. I had such vivid pictures in my mind of all characters involved that their personalities, their families and their homes seemed like I had seen them in real life. Perhaps the only thing I missed in this novel was the tongue-in-cheek humour found in "What Alice Forgot", which still makes it my favourite Moriarty book to-date.
Apart from secrets kept and secrets exposed, marriage and motherhood feature as strongly in The Husband's Secret as in previous novels. As a mother, decisions no longer involve just a single person, but have grave outcomes on the people you love most.
"You're a mother. You'd do anything for your children, just like I'd do anything for mine. "
Would I, or wouldn't I? If it involved my own children, yes, I probably would. Regardless of moral and ethical dilemmas, like a lioness protecting her cub I wouldn't hesitate to defend my young. And this is where it becomes tricky of course.
Enough said. I loved this book. I fully recommend it. Go and buy it and see for yourself. If you enjoyed Moriarty's previous novels, you will not be disappointed.
on October 9, 2014
I had to admonish myself for being embarrassed to admit I was reading a book entitled "The Husband's Secret," first of all, because (I thought) it is stupid to base an entire book on a silly title. The title, though, is as silly as the book is frivolous and over-hyped. I was hoping to learn a lesson in not judging an entire book on its title (or cover), but if you're looking for a great plot and interesting characters (note: I did not write "well liked," because I firmly believe a good writer can write an amazing book with flawed, unlikable characters), you'll want to pass on this one. I have no idea why it has so many positive reviews. I feel tricked somehow. I knew it was going to *seem* like a book about the every day relationships and situations we all face, but I was led to believe there would be much more to the plot than there actually was. A book about basic life turned out, in the end, to be...basic. Boring.
The husband, who one would assume would appear prominently in the pages and narrative, is barely present. It's almost as if he's embarrassed to be involved in the thing and is ducking and keeping a low profile. Readers never get to know the husband, which is a shame, because it would have probably made for a better read.
on February 6, 2014
Ugh, I rarely write reviews but the positive reviews are what made me purchase this book and I hope I can convince someone to think before purchasing! Like many of the other negative reviews, I found this book contrived and just completely unrealistic. The author tries so hard to make her characters likable and yet they do awful out of character things that just couldn't convince me that these were lifelike people. Predictable with no depth, I found myself scrolling through the last quarter of the book to just to get to the end.
on October 21, 2013
After what is in the letter is revealed I lost interest.
The characters were annoying and their situations
on December 14, 2013
I was very excited to read this book based on the reviews and was incredibly disappointed by it. It was a struggle to finish it and yes, I did finally finish it. Throughout most of it, I couldn't figure out whether the author has an extreme case of ADHD or it was the characters. They would be in the middle of a sentence about one thing and go off on a tangent about something else that I could barely find related. I understand thoughts being like that. I'm in my 40's with several kids and a husband and all the responsibilities of life and I have found my mind increasingly, shall we say, cluttered. However, when I choose a book to read, I prefer for it not to be cluttered and rambling. Way too much going on in this book. Much of it was irrelevant to the story. Thankfully, I'm done and moving on to something else!
on October 15, 2013
I'd rate this as a so-so novel.
I have mixed feelings about this book. My biggest issue with the book was the way the women were portrayed. I felt like I was reading a book written in the 1960's or 1970's. Their lives revolved around keeping a spotless house, running school committees, baking muffins, selling Tupperware, the Church, taking their kids to afterschool activities, and commiserating about their daft husbands who couldn't operate a washer or organize a carpool if their lives depended on it. I kept expecting one of them to realize there's more to life than making the perfect soufflé, burn her bra, and ride off into the sunset with the young hippie who had shown her that sex could be fun. It seemed like it was going to turn out to be that kind of book - although it wasn't. Maybe it's because it's an Australian book, but the women seemed totally unreal to me. They didn't behave like any women I know.
I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first because the separate threads started to come together and the plot took some interesting twists and turns. It does make you think, although, once again, the choices the characters made didn't always ring true to me. The author did include an interesting epilogue that showed how a few slight changes in what people had chosen to do many years ago could have led to vastly different outcomes for all the characters. It was a nice touch.
I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend this book because I found the portrayals of the women to be so bizarre, but it's not a terrible book. I guess it just hit the wrong note for me.
on September 13, 2014
I can't believe the number of positive reviews of this book. I only read it because it was my book club's selection. I'd seen it reviewed before, but decided against buying it because it seemed to be a tired and hackneyed story line. How true. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that it didn't take too long to read it. The writing is juvenile, the characters are flat (plus there are way too many of them). The author appears to have taken virtually every modern day social issue and wrapped them all into an improbable and utterly banal story. For readers who may want to read a really well-written novel dealing with a moral dilemma, I would highly recommend "The Light Between Oceans." Also written by an Australian, it is vastly superior. There is not the slightest chance I'd ever pick up another novel by Ms. Moriarty. I taught eighth graders who could compose a better story. If I haven't already make it clear, this book is pure literary trash.