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Share the Secret!
on September 1, 2011
Former First Lady, Betty Ford died at age 93. She was a beacon of hope for addicts bringing the taboo subject of alcoholism into the forefront in the 1970's, a topic people can freely talk about today, decades later. Chances are you know someone who is affected by alcohol. Maybe it's a person in your family, a co-worker, perhaps it's you. Because of the work of people like Betty Ford, many of us are able to discuss the disease of alcoholism, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us as a society. Women and mothers are still judged harsher by a double standard if they are alcoholic, but the stigma is painstakingly being broken down and one place I see it happening is in fiction. Authors are frequently creating characters that are alcoholic and storylines to reflect how addiction affects our society.
Rarely do I find a book that affects me after I've finished it. Amy Hatvany's novel, BEST KEPT SECRET is one such book. It grabbed me at page one and it didn't let me go until the end. The problems are real and there are no clear solutions. It's thoughtful and heartbreaking but hopeful and beautifully written with an ending that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.
Cadence's drinking sneaks up on her. First, as a way to sleep, to help her relax after long days, to relieve the stress of the divorce that has left her struggling to make ends meet. It wasn't always like this. Just a few years ago, she had it all - the successful husband, an adorable five-year old son, Charlie and a promising career as a freelance writer. But with the end of her marriage, her life begins to spin out of control. Suddenly she's all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and being the perfect mom. Cadence knows that she's drinking too much, and every day begins with a renewed promise that she'll stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn't understand, she's reaching for the bottle -- even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off again late at preschool. Within a year, she is a full-blown alcoholic on the verge of losing the most important thing in her life: her young son Charlie. Then one night she leaves him alone to go out and buy more wine at the store. Several weeks later, her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away and Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered.
BEST KEPT SECRET is one of the most compelling books I've read in a long time. It takes the subject of alcoholism that is a lot more common than many of us would like to acknowledge and puts it front and center and forces us to take a hard look at the issue. The novel is heart-breaking and uplifting all at the same time. There are thousands of "Cadences" out there in the world -- single-moms, trying the best they can to get through their days raising happy little children while struggling to make it professionally.
I adored little Charlie and loved how he continued to love his mommy while she self-destructed before his eyes and my heart broke for Cadence, who Hatvany had me rooting for her while knowing Child Services should take her child away immediately. If you are a mother, daughter or a sister, you will see a part of yourself in Cadence. She's flawed but lovable; you'll want her to succeed in her fight for sobriety, and in her fight for custody of Charlie.
BEST KEPT SECRET could have been a tragic family story if it wasn't told without Hatvany's well-crafted writing skills and ability to layer multiple dimensions to her characters, risking making them unlikeable, but allowing their best intentions to prevail. BEST KEPT SECRETS at its core is a story about little five-year old, Charlie's superhero, his Mommy! How Cadence is constantly rising, and falling, but somehow rising again to make her son proud of his Mommy... and Cadence proud of herself!
Amy Hatvany is the author of two previous novels THE LANGUAGE of SISTERS and THE KIND of LOVE THAT SAVES YOU written under the name Amy Yurk.