The Husband’s Secret
Published July 30, 2013
394 pages (Kindle e-book)
This book begins with a single paragraph intended to foreshadow what’s to come. Here it is:
Poor, poor Pandora. Zeus sends her off to marry Epimetheus, a not especially bright man she’s never even met, along with a mysterious covered jar. Nobody tells Pandora a word about the jar. Nobody tells her not to open the jar. Naturally, she opens the jar. What else has she got to do? How was she to know that all those dreadful ills would go whooshing out to plague mankind forevermore, and that the only thing left in the jar would be hope? Why wasn’t there a warning label? And then everyone’s like, Oh, Pandora. Where’s your willpower? You were told not to open that box, you snoopy girl, you typical woman with your insatiable curiosity; now look what you’ve gone and done. When for one thing it was a jar, not a box, and for another—how many times does she have to say it?—nobody said a word about not opening it.
And foreshadow it does. The played-out literary trope, the annoying writing tics (like the excessive use of italics), the attempted (and unsuccessful) cutesy voice, the helpless (and stupid) woman: there’s much, much more of all of that in the remaining four-hundred pages of this over-hyped, uninspired novel.
What it’s about: The book explores the lives of three women from Sydney. As the book begins, their stories are all told separately. Cecilia is the super mom. She sells Tupperware (and makes more money than her husband doing it) and adeptly manages the lives of her three beautiful daughters. Her house is always spotless, she is an excellent baker, and she helps run all the school events. Rachel is a widow who works part time as a school secretary. She lives for her adorable young grandson, who has begun to bring joy back into her life (joy that has been missing since her eighteen-year-old daughter was mysteriously murdered decades ago). Tess runs an advertising firm with her husband, Will, and her cousin/BFF, Felicity. They are the three amigos. She juggles work with raising her son, Liam, whom she adores. Each woman is hard-working, strong, and seemingly competent.
As the book continues, you realize that their lives and stories are all connected and intertwined. And things start unraveling for each woman. The book explores how they handle things as shit goes off the rails. Spoiler alert: this book will never be marketed as a how-to book for women.
Why I read it: This one has been sitting idly on my Kindle for over two years now. It was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for July 2013 and got some good hype back then. Now, it has over 16,000 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.3 stars. When I started trying to get back into the reading groove, I felt too lazy to research new and interesting books, so I fell back on what I already had. That was a mistake.
Over the past couple years, I had started this book a couple times but didn’t get very far (the stupid Pandora’s Box paragraph annoyed me every time). Now I know I should have trusted my instincts. This book can’t stay away from the trite and clichéd. The end is just as annoying as the beginning: there’s an epilogue that tidily explains not only how everything ends up but how everything WOULD HAVE happened if events had occurred differently (leaving absolutely nothing to the reader’s imagination/interpretation). Good times.
The book is ostensibly about making hard moral/ethical decisions (ones that may be considered “wrong” but are the best under the circumstances). But, as I alluded to above, it’s basically a four-hundred page book about women making horrible decisions for “the good” of their families. Do unspeakable things? No problem! We can make this work!! There are children involved, after all. Barf.
What I’m reading next:
- Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley (a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015, one of Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2015, and the #1 Kids’ Next List pick for Summer 2015). A kids’ book about a magical circus? I’m hoping for Harry Potter meets The Night Circus. Count me in!
- Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dana Suskind, M.D. Suskind is the founder of the Thirty Million Words initiative, which is “based on the scientifically demonstrated critical importance of early language exposure on the developing child.” This is a non-fiction parenting book . . . but fret not; it’s much more interesting than the sleep-training book I read (and spared you a review of) a couple weeks ago.