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on August 23, 2015
This book was incredibly compelling. Not because it was packed full of suspense & intrigue, but because it was thoroughly and completely absorbing. I quickly became intensely invested in main character Cadence's story thanks to Hatvany's remarkable storytelling and her ability to evoke empathy. I've read other books about mothers battling addiction, including Jennifer Weiner's recent ALL FALL DOWN, but somehow this novel allowed me to truly understand the physical and emotional struggle Cadence was experiencing. My own mother suffered alcoholism for years, and I know firsthand how hard recovery can be, but only from the outside looking in, which often resulted in frustration. BEST KEPT SECRET provided insight into the inner turmoil associated with alcoholism and the inability to just stop drinking no matter how desperately you want to quit. It also dealt with the judgement and scrutiny that mothers, in particular, are met with when they can't live up to the impossible standards and expectations society places upon women. And while I was sympathetic to Cadence's situation, there were still moments where I thought, "here we go, again," when Cadence exhibited behavior similar to my mother's. In this way, Hatvany is faithful to the reality of being an addict, offering further testimony to the dangerous nature of the disease. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism or addiction, whether it's a friend, family member, or yourself battling the affliction. And if you are lucky enough to know nothing of this struggle, BEST KEPT SECRET delivers a powerful, heartbreaking story of failure and recovery sure to touch even the hardest of hearts.
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on June 29, 2015
Grade: B

Cadence finally realizes her drinking is out of control when her her five year old son's preschool teacher calls her ex, and he takes young Charlie home with him. After a stint in rehab, she wants Charlie back, although her ex now has custody. Reluctantly, she finally engages in her aftercare program hoping to regain custody.

I empathized with Cadence's difficulty, particularly her troubled relationship with her mother, but didn't like her. She was narcissistic, selfish, lacked insight, filled with self-pity and didn't seem to recognize the impact on her behavior on others, particularly Charlie. Her sense of entitlement grated on me and I actively rooted against Cadence to regain or obtain joint custody, mostly because she didn't understand how far she had to go to be a healthy mother. Other than loving Charlie, Cadence displayed poor parenting skills. She lacked boundaries, threw away the rules and treated her visits with him like she was trying to win his love by saying yes to everything.

Amy Hatvany tells a realistic, though sometimes clichéd story of an alcoholic in recovery. THE BEST KEPT SECRET has some easy answers to complicated dynamics (the mother was like ______ because of _______ and now that we know everything is great etc). Hatvany accomplishes a difficult writing task, getting me to like a book and dislike the main character/narrator. Cadence does develop and lose some of her negative traits throughout the arc of THE BEST KEPT SECRET, enough to feel realistic without being Pollyannaish or too pessimistic.
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on June 8, 2011
In the beginning of the novel,we meet a happy succesful journalist who is recently married and overjoyed with a new baby on the way. In the words that follow, we find a devastated divorcee with a dwindling income, an active toddler whom she loves with the depth of her being. She begins with a couple glasses of wine in the evening to "help her sleep". Then a couple in the afternoon to take "the edge off" before she makes dinner. Her life went downhill from there. Why shower, she wasn't going anywhere. She didn't need make-up or clean clothes..same reason. The ultimate rock bottom was the night she realizes she's out of wine! The store is only 6 minutes away...Charlie is sound asleep,he won't wake up. Her life is then taken out of her hands.
What follows is the slow climb through recovery, rehab, AA, with the ultimate goal of regaining custody of her son.
It is the beautiful story of the strength of women, the bond of motherhood, and her renewed faith in the need for supporting friends and family.
I was not surprised at the end of the novel, that the author has lived and traveled the journey herself. Some women [or men] might be turned off by the loss of control of Cadence. Some may see their stories in an author's work.
I'm new to reviewing books, I don't usually write more than a few words. This story called my name.
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on October 12, 2013
All I can say is....WOW!

Cadence is a single mother, recently out of rehab for alcoholism, who is fighting to get custody of her son back from her ex-husband. I know--that sounds like a Lifetime movie. But, trust me it isn't.

I read the author interview at the end of the book and was not surprised to find out that the author herself is a recovering alcoholic and a mother (but not a single one). There is no way this book could have been written by someone who hasn't experienced the abyss of addiction while being a mother.

I will admit that I found the first part of the book a little confusing as the chapters alternated between the present day of the story and flashbacks to when she was drinking. However, I realized that confusion actually adds to the story and helps the reader experience a bit more what Cadence was going through. I also found Cadence's development during her recovery to be realistic and moving. Cadence is someone you root for, even when you've seen her at her worst. The other characters are all well-written as well. There are a couple periphery characters that are pretty much stock characters--but they are used as tools for Cadence's character.

I could relate to Cadence--not in terms of alcoholism (I very rarely drink anymore). However, I saw myself in her stresses in parenting and dealing with some difficult personalities. And, as I said, I am not a drinker--but I will admit to finding solace in chocolate more than a few times.

This is also a very readable book, something that is surprising given the content. Hatvany has a very solid style--surprising as I read in her interview that she hadn't written in 5 years before starting this book. The only criticism I can find with this book is that there is one resolution to one of Cadence's issues that is a bit too easy to truly believe. No, I won't tell you what it is, but I will say that it is not one of the major issues in the book.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a heartbreaking view of addiction--and of parenthood.
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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.
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on January 8, 2012
This is an excellent book about Cadence, who like many people - single mothers or not, have had a glass or two of wine to unwind at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, Cadence let's it grow into something much, much more than a glass or two of wine and soon she's drinking bottles of wine a day, just to get by. After a particularly bad bender, her ex-husband takes away their 5-year old son, Charlie. This move prompts Cadence to get checked into the hospital with the help of her dedicated sister, and into a treatment program.

The story is moving and believable and Cadence struggles through recovery and accepting her diagnosis of alcoholism. Her sister is incredibly supportive while her own mother is distant. In addition to trying to stay sober, to learn what triggers her desire to drink, she's also entrenched in a custody battle over her son, trying to prove to the court that she can stay sober and be a good parent to Charlie.

The book is well written with characters that are believable - their actions are what you can imagine the truly would be - Cadence's desperation over wanting Charlie back, her reluctance to admit she's an alcoholic, her difficult relationship with her mother, and her even more difficult relationship with her ex-husband. Overall a good read that didn't necessarily give you a 100% happy ending, but its ending is perfect for the story and it felt true. A recommended read.
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on January 5, 2015
This is an excellent and realistic book. Cadence is a mother who becomes an alcoholic to deal with life. The evolution of her addiction and its effect on her five year old son Charlie are insidious and then spiral out of control. Cadence is a real woman with flaws, good intentions and problems.Then things don't get done, Charlie is often late to school, Cadence cannot play with him or care properly for either of them. She loves her son though. However, she learns a bitter lesson when her ex finds out about her drinking and how she left their son alone one night to buy herself some alcohol one night...Excellent writing and character and plot development. I love most of this authors' works.
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on September 24, 2011
Wow, this was a really powerful story. Having lived through a divorce with young children, I could understand the aftermath and the emotions Cadence was feeling. Coupled with the stress of being a freelance writer and trying to survive financially, Cadence suddenly finds herself drinking to deal with her child, to help her write, to help her sleep, and finally to get through every day. The author does a great job of developing all the characters in the story, Martin her ex-husband, her controlling Mother in law, and her own Mother and her story blended beautifully. Her sister and her "friends", and her new friends-aka support group from AA. This book really gives you a great understanding of this disease and how powerless people become when they realize they have the "gene" and it's too late-they are in full blown addiction. Your heart goes out to Cadence-she is a wonderful character-smart, strong, funny and the ending makes you happy and proud of her. Excellent book--I would highly recommend.
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on December 23, 2017
It’s hard to like our main character at the beginning but she grows on you. She is very believable and you end up rooting for her. I feel like I understand her point of view and I have a new understanding of what alcoholics go through.
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on November 2, 2015
I loved this story! Without giving anything away, this is the struggle of a stay at home mom who finds comfort in drinking wine and her struggle with addiction. Hatvany says at the end of the book that she struggled with addiction and her deep knowledge of the subject shows in the book. You will want to laugh and cry throughout the book and I think so many of us can relate to some of the issues the character has to deal with as a mom. This is one of my favorite books of Amy Hatvany.
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