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The Last Secret: A Novel Hardcover – April 7, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Keeping secrets leads to calamitous consequences in Morris's disturbing domestic thriller. At age 17, Nora Trimble has a dangerous eight-day summer escapade with psycho boyfriend Eddie Hawkins that ends in a violent incident in a bar. Twenty-six years later, Nora is the happy wife of wealthy Kendall Ken Hammond, co-owner of a smalltown Massachusetts newspaper, and the devoted mother of two teens. Her world's turned upside down by Eddie's shocking reappearance and Ken's revelation that he's been having an adulterous relationship for four years with his childhood sweetheart Robin Gendron, his best friend's wife. Nora must contend with not only marital woes but the blackmailing serial killer Eddie, who refuses to leave town because of his new obsession—Robin. Morris (The Lost Mother) knocks over a domino chain of events that, while not too surprising, confirm the importance of comprehending past mistakes to avoid future ones. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

One assumes that a woman who marries into a family of privilege has the world on a string. Nora Hammond felt that way about her own life. Married with two teenage children, a prominent job at her husband’s family newspaper, socializing with the wealthy and powerful, Nora was living her picture-perfect life—until her husband, Ken, reveals he has been having a “relationship” with one of Nora’s best friends for years. What follows is a wrenching portrait of a family falling apart under the weight and ramifications of the affair and their futile struggle to stay together. As if this wasn’t emotionally compelling enough, Morris, unfortunately, adds a subplot—a man from Nora’s past comes back to haunt her. It is unnecessary, distracting, and at times ruins the psychological arc Morris works to build. In the end, Morris ties the stories together, but it feels forced and unsatisfying. Those who follow this highly regarded author will want to read The Last Secret; those new to Morris should start with an earlier title. --Carolyn Kubisz

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307451275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307451279
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,473,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Entertaining, mesmerizing, touching.
JulieK from Mendota Heights
None of the characters were likeable, and most of the situations were not believable.
Penny's mom
Some readers will appreciate that the book went that far, but I didn't.
Amy Tiemann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
McGarry Morris has written a number of provocative novels, this one dealing with the foolish mistakes of youth, an inappropriate love affair and a marriage laid bare by a husband's confessed infidelity. Nora Hammond, living in a small New England town with husband, Kendall, and two teenaged children, Chloe and Drew, has put the nightmarish events of her youth aside as a wife and mother. Working at the family-owned newspaper, Nora has found fulfillment, believing the past far behind her. Until her husband's rash confession, the only hint of trouble is the occasional bad dream of the fateful night Nora last saw Eddie Hawkins. Ken's baring of his soul reduces Nora's bliss to a pile of ashes, his affair undermining everything she has counted on in her relationship with Ken. Vacillating between rage and grief, Nora struggles with Ken's revelation, unable to get a grip on her emotions.

What is barely tolerable becomes unendurable with the return of the boyfriend who suddenly appears at Nora's home, office and social events. She doesn't know what Eddie wants from her, only that a shameful secret must not come out. As she begins the stages of grief over Ken's betrayal of their marriage, the reader is compelled to follow in the wake of this Nora's pain, her anguish at Ken's infidelity vying with her desire to confront the woman who has taken her place in his affections. Oblivious to everyone in her pain, Nora is further shocked to realize the long-term affair has long been the topic of interest for friends, coworkers and acquaintances. Even her son has carried the weight of Ken's infidelity long before Nora learns the truth.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are some books and authors that I'd like to have with me on a desert island. Mary McGarry Morris is one of those writers. I have always been drawn to her books, their dark and brooding nature with the sentience of doom and fatality omnipresent. I can almost smell the darkness when I read her novels, feel the desperation of the dissolute and the outsider. I have read all but two of her books and those two I'm saving for a very special time and place - - a desert island kind of moment. She's THAT good a writer.

The Last Secret is powerful and unflinching. It builds up slowly but the tension and angst keep coming. The characters are disgruntled, desperate, despairing, fragile, with huge currents roiling through their being as they try to keep their inner and outer storms at bay. Some characters are loathsome, despicable and pathetic. These are juxtaposed with others who try to stay strong, keep one foot in front of the other, and maintain independence at all costs. What Ms. Morris is so excellent at portraying is that while people try to fool themselves into believing that they have certain attributes better, worse, or more unique than others, most people are actually quite alike in that they harbor these components: the good, the bad and the evil.

When she was seventeen years old, Nora ran off with a troubled young man named Eddie Hawkins. During the week she was with him she drank a lot, got into situations that were outside her comfort range and behaved in ways that she thought were completely outside her moral compass. At one point Eddie asks her to come on to an older man and encourage him to follow her outside a bar so that Eddie can rob him. The older man follows her and something dreadful happens.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Happiest When Reading on June 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I, too, found Nora to be a most unsympathetic character and, frankly, I got a bit tired of her whining. On the other hand, it is probably exceedingly difficult to create a main character who is so complex that she is, first, a victim, wronged by both her husband and her old boyfriend, Eddie, and second, a self-center and, at the end of the story, somewhat cruel personality at the same time. Clearly an imperfect human being - aren't we all? She really becomes more annoying as the story develops, though, and I found it totally unbelievable that she could be unaware of her husband's 4-year affair with her best friend, an affair everyone else knows about, but she doesn't even suspect. Really implausible. But the story is still quite compelling and I found Eddie to be an interesting and deliciously evil character who shows no signs of a conscience whatsoever. Couldn't wait to see what nasty thing he'd do next.

However, if you've not read Mary McGarry Morris yet, I strongly recommend you start with "A Dangerous Woman", her best book by far and one of my all time favorite novels. Anyone who can write a book that fabulous can be forgiven almost anything!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Meyerle on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mary McGarry Morris' latest book, while it achieves the stylistic grace and satisfying characterization of her earlier novels, fails to live up to her reputation as a writer's writer because she allows the storyline to veer off track into unnecessary details and subplots which merely burden the book without rendering further insight. As is her forte, she once again creates vivid characters whose actions are believable up to a point. One could argue that she "turns the screw" too many times so that the resulting quagmire is unnecessarily dense. However, the stunning "last secret" is credible in the same way her psychopathic protagonist in "Vanished" was. This is a dark book, but Morris' readers have come to expect that and presumably appreciate the glimpses into complicated mental disorders she depicts in her lost protagonists.

The book centers on affluent, socially prominent Nora Hammond, who is married to Ken, an old moneyed, respected community leader and owner of the local newspaper. When approached by Eddie Hawkins, a sleazy consort from her past who sees her in "Newsweek," helping out in a battered women's charity, Nora offers him money rather than have a dirty secret of her youth exposed. The reader believes this "secret" is the assault of a drunken man in a parking lot, an incident Nora cannot remember because she was drinking heavily at the time. However, she still revisits it in recurring, confusing, dreams. It is revealed later that the reason she ran away with Eddie, a lowlife acquaintance, and was involved in the parking lot assault was because she had falsely accused her mother's boyfriend, her teacher, of having molested her. Thus ended her mother's romantic relationship and the man's job and reputation.
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