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Secrets of Eden: A Novel by [Bohjalian, Chris]
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Secrets of Eden: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews

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Length: 388 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bohjalian (Law of Similars) has built a reputation on his rich characters and immersing readers in diverse subjects—homeopathy, animal rights activism, midwifery—and his latest surely won't disappoint. The morning after her baptism into the Rev. Stephen Drew's Vermont Baptist church, Alice Hayward and her abusive husband are found dead in their home, an apparent murder-suicide. Stephen, the novel's first narrator, is so racked with guilt over his failure to save Alice that he leaves town. Soon, he meets Heather Laurent, the author of a book about angels whose own parents' marriage also ended in tragedy. Stephen's deeply sympathetic narration is challenged by the next two narrators: deputy state attorney Catherine Benincasa, whose suspicions are aroused initially by Stephen's abrupt departure (and then by questions about his relationship with Alice), and Heather, who distances herself from Stephen for similar reasons and risks the trip into her dark past by seeking out Katie, the Haywards' now-orphaned 15-year-old daughter who puts into play the final pieces of the puzzle, setting things up for a touching twist. Fans of Bohjalian's more exotic works will miss learning something new, but this is a masterfully human and compassionate tale. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Bohjalian skillfully intertwines different narrators and their conflicting perspectives on the same events to build tension and suspense. While the critics agreed that each voice is distinct, they did not consider the narrators equally convincing--particularly Reverend Drew (too detached and self-centered) and Catherine (too clichéd as the tough-as-nails attorney). Additionally, the Washington Post found Bohjalian's portrait of domestic violence somewhat flat and formulaic. Others, however, thought he tackled the subject with compassion and tact, and nearly all cited Heather's memories of her parents' marriage as some of the novel's most harrowing passages. Overall, Secrets of Eden is the enjoyable thrilleresque novel that readers have come to expect from Bohjalian.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4154 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (January 28, 2010)
  • Publication Date: February 2, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002SXN7LQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,339 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By My 2 Cents VINE VOICE on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title alone of Chris Bohjalian's latest book: The Secrets of Eden, drew me in, and never let go. Having read all of this author's books, I can say without a doubt that Bohjalian is one of those talented authors, who can expertly write about controversial subject matters and family issues while keeping the reader hanging on and anxiously turning the pages,

Secrets of Eden takes place in the small town of Haverill, Vermont. The story is told through the perspectives of four central characters. From the very first pages the reader gets a feel of what is going on in the mind of Reverend Stephen Drew of the local Baptist Church......

(p.3) "On those sorts of Sundays, whenever someone would stand and ask for prayers for something relatively minor -- a promotion, traveling mercies, a broken leg that would surely mend --I would find myself thinking as I stood in the pulpit, 'Get a spine, you bloody ingrate! Buck Up! That lady behind you is about to lose her husband to pancreatic cancer, and you're whining about your difficult boss? Oh please! -- I never said that sort of thing aloud, but I think it is only because I'm from a particularly mild mannered suburb of New York City, and so my family has to be drunk, to be cutting. I did love my congregation, but I also knew that I had an inordinate number of whiners."

And, while all small towns have their secrets, no one including the Rev. Drew, was prepared for what would happen on the very day he baptized one of his own parishioners. On the very day that Alice Hayward came to be baptized in Brookner's pond, she along with her husband George would be found dead. The Haywards, along with their teenage daughter Katie were prominent members of the community.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bohjalian has written a provocative novel of faith and angels, murder and abuse in a bucolic Haverill, Vermont. In alternating chapters, each character reveals his perspective of the local murder-suicide of George and Alice Hayward, as the author explores humanity's tendencies to proffer judgments in the face of tragedy. For Reverend Stephen Drew, the murder-suicide engenders a crisis of faith. Alice was his parishioner, her fifteen-year-old daughter, Katie, a former member of the church's youth group. In fact, Stephen baptized Alice Hayward the morning of her death, Alice's only cryptic comment after her full immersion in the water, "there". Now Stephen is left to ponder the significance of that single word.

Heather Laurent, author of two best-selling books about the existence of angels, is drawn to the tragedy, to Stephen and to Katie, because of her personal history. Angels have had a profound influence on Heather's daily existence; in fact, the appearance of an angel has saved her from a suicide attempt. It is only natural, then, that Heather should find herself at the rectory with Rev. Drew, and through him to Katie, Alice's daughter. The immediate spark between minister and author is undeniable, he of dwindling faith, she full of grace. But reality is seldom as it appears, Heather ultimately facing yet another test of her soul: "I had allowed my mortal judgment to cloud my celestial instincts."

When forensics evidence indicates murder, States Attorney Catherine Benincasa is not inclined toward existential discussions of faith or the beneficence of angels. Hers is a world of cold, hard facts and the facts point to one particular suspect.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved "Midwives" by this author but this book is a miss for Bohjalian. I did not connect with any of the characters as they were poorly developed. The best part of the book was the first one narrated by Stephen Drew, the minister. With the introduction of Heather Laurent, the angel expert, the book just got weird. To rehash the same chain of events in each part became redundant and boring. And to include Heather's troubled past and strange sister added nothing to the book. The final part by Katie, the daughter of the murdered parents, was overdone with Katie's speculations about her mother's death. And Katie did not come across as a realistic teenager.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

The story starts out just after the deaths of George and Alice Hayward, in an apparent murder/suicide. The location is a small town in Vermont, where many knew that Alice was an abused wife.

The story is broken up into several sections, each narrated by a different person. We hear from the town pastor, who harbors a guilty secret. We hear from a woman who writes books about angels, who becomes involved because her own parents killed themselves in a murder/suicide. We hear from law enforcement, and from family members, including Katie, the only child of the Haywards who is rightfully traumatized by her parents death.

What's nice about this technique of multiple narrators, is that we get a Rashomon like effect - each narrator tells their perspective of the facts, and it is only at the end when we know the complete truth, and how some of what we were told was wrong.

This story is not only a mystery, but also an informative look at spousal battery and alcoholism, and their effect on family members. In fact, we see how addiction and abuse affect can often hinder our ability to make social and personal connections later on in life.

Recommended. If you have enjoyed Chris Bohjalian books in the past, such as Midwives or The Double Bind, you will probably enjoy this.
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