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A Reader of Fictions: Review + Giveaway: The Husband's Secret

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review + Giveaway: The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty
Pages: 416
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Read: July 23-28, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . . .

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . . Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

First Sentence: "It was all because of the Berlin Wall."

To say that I was surprised by the quality and beauty of The Husband's Secret would be an understatement. In fact, I almost didn't pick Moriarty's novel up at BEA, but did so at the behest of a publicist, one whose name I wish I'd noted so that I could thank her. My hesitance to read The Husband's Secret stemmed from the cover (which bears an unfortunate resemblance to that of Black City) and the blurb (which makes the novel sound like a stereotypical novel about infidelity). If either of these reasons are holding you back, do not let them as The Husband's Secret is women's fiction at its finest.

The basic premise, the one that the blurb points to, is a sort of retelling of Pandora's box, a woman's life transfigured when she opens something she perhaps oughtn't. On a basic level, this is true. Cecilia Fitzpatrick does find a letter addressed to her to be opened on the event of her husband John-Paul's death. She calls him to ask about it, and he makes her promise not to open it. She agrees, but secrets it away curious. When John-Paul comes home early from his business trip and ventures in the middle of the night into the attic, which he avoids due to claustrophobia, to claim the letter, Cecilia pulls it from its hiding place and reads. From this moment, a certain chaos does enter the world, and lives and marriages are tested.

What the blurb only barely hints at is that this story is not just about Cecilia. Tess and Rachel are but a footnote of the blurb, but they have equal share in the story of The Husband's Secret. Though initially not tied together seemingly in any way, the lives of the three weave together inexorably as the pages pass. The story is a dark one, moving and gorgeously-written.

Though the subject matter may be a bit melodramatic, I found the story endlessly compelling and it almost made me cry, which is the equivalent of saying most readers will want to keep a box of tissues handy; I am not one who cries easily. Despite the scale of the drama within, The Husband's Secret actually feels quite down to earth, thanks to the personalities of these three women who inhabit its pages. Rachel, Tess, and Cecilia are all good women, whose lives have been thrown off kilter by personal tragedies, past or present.

Cecilia does it all. She's a brilliant wife, mother, homemaker, and brings in a hefty income doing Tupperware parties. She appears to other women, like Rachel and Tess, as one of those women who has everything together, and who has been blessed in life. Cecilia's three daughters are bright and affectionate. She and her husband love one another deeply, and have, until very recently, always had a very satisfying sex life. Opening the later, though, must change everything, one way or another. And, no, the letter's not about a secret affair.

Tess, like Cecilia, is a woman of vast achievement. She's a successful account manager for the advertising company she runs with her husband, Will, and cousin (also best friend) Felicity. Her son, Liam, is the source of some concern, as he is being bullied at school, but otherwise life is happy. One day, out of the blue, Will and Felicity sit her down to explain that they've fallen in love. Tess, questioning both of her relationships, leaves their home in Melbourne and takes Liam to Sydney, where they stay with her mother and he can attend a school his bully does not attend. In this break from her day-to-day life, Tess has space to evaluate what role Felicity has always played in her life and what she wants her life to be from here on out.

Rachel, a grandmother, has been a largely unhappy woman ever since her daughter Janie was murdered, strangled to death and left in a park, the murderer never located and brought to justice. She's always suspected Connor Whitby, but has no proof. Her one small joy in life, her grandson, will soon be wrested from her, as her son, Rob, and daughter-in-law, Lauren, are moving to New York City. With this announcement, Rachel descends even more heavily into her desire for closure in Janie's case.

All three women are likable and sympathetic, even when they make choices that aren't necessarily good ones. They face moral dilemmas with no good solution, and just try to muddle through. The Husband's Secret really considers whether choices should be made to protect the children or because they are morally right. Though I can't say that I'm necessarily in agreement with the way that each storyline wrapped up, each woman is so well-characterized that the routes they take do make sense.

Powerful, heart-wrenching literary fiction with a focus on women, The Husband's Secret is a lavish novel. Bear the warning of the Pandora comparison in mind, for the the tale is not a happy one. Liane Moriarty's writing and characterization have convinced me to add the rest of her adult novels to my to-read list. I can only hope I find them as moving and well done as this one.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "Marriage was a form of insanity; love hovering on the edge of aggravation."

In my continuing quest to share my very favorite reads with readers across the world, I'm offering an international giveaway for a hardback of The Husband's Secret. The book will be shipped via The Book Depository, so as long as they ship to your country, you can win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blogger Audra said...

Okay -- I have this book coming up in my review queue and I was SO dreading it -- but now you have me so damn excited! I'll be prepared to have tissues on hand.

July 30, 2013 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

This is the one I was talking about on chat yesterday! I hope you like it too. Or maybe you'll judge me commercial... We'll see!

July 30, 2013 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hmm, this one sounds really good! I love how you said that it moved you, so other readers are going to need tissues. :D I hadn't heard of this one but the synopsis is really compelling, combined with your review. You've definitely made me want to give this one a try!

July 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I don't read a lot of women's fiction, but this one sounds really good. All of the characters sound intriguing to me, and I really want to know about the letter. Fantastic review!

July 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Heather said...


Relevant comment is relevant.

July 30, 2013 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger GillyB said...

Oooooo, now I want to know what the SECRET is! I have guesses, but obviously I'm lacking some information. Glad that it's NOT infidelity.

July 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

ugh tupperware parties. During the school year I am always invited to those by moms at my kids school, I always wonder if you can actually make substantial money doing that. There is also a mom who has sex toy parties. Yeah. There is.

I think I could love this! The fact that it almost made you cry has me wanting to pick it up alone.

July 30, 2013 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Morgan said...

I've heard a lot about this recently and your review made me even more intrigued! I just finished Tigers in Red Weather, which was also very dark, secretive women's fiction. It was quite shocking really. I'm in the mood for another similar book!

July 30, 2013 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Gina @ My Precious said...

Ok, I read mainly MG and YA, though I'm almost embarrassed to admit I'm closer to 50 than 40. This story does sound outstanding in your review. Few books are able to move me to tears, but I do enjoy a good tear jerker every now and again. I've never heard of the Genre Women's Fiction though. Its not like Romance is it, because I'm just not into reading about that.

July 30, 2013 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Audra said...

HA, we'll see. There's nothing wrong with commercial! It's just not always for me. (Too hetero-normative, I think.)

July 30, 2013 at 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was such a wonderful review. If I come across it, I will definitely read it. It sounds like something for a rainy day (and we get plenty of those here in Vancouver.)

July 30, 2013 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hm, I'm still not certain this is the right book for me. I don't tend to enjoy stories with multiple protagonists whose stories are interwoven together, but I must admit my curiosity was peaked after reading your review. It's clear you feel quite strongly about this novel, and that, coupled with my interest as to what John-Paul's secret entails, might be enough to make me pick up something I might not otherwise have any interest in :)

July 30, 2013 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, this does sound interesting
I am very intrigued about the letter and its significance
GREAT review, as always
Your reader,

July 31, 2013 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ahhhhh, makes sense. I don't think there were any gay couples in here. Sad day.

July 31, 2013 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Lol, I know. I'm so hard-hearted that books rarely make me cry. I hope you enjoy it if you get to read it, Molli!

July 31, 2013 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I really thought it was awesome, and the characters are fantastic!

July 31, 2013 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


July 31, 2013 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Christina said...


July 31, 2013 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Christina said...


I don't know what to think about that.

July 31, 2013 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was super skeptical about whether or not to request this... I mean it sounds like it could be super intriguing but it had the potential to fall super flat and I just wasn't willing to take this chance. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it as much as you did. You've now given me hope. :) Great review!

July 31, 2013 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I was shying away from this because I hate to read about affairs but you make it sound really interesting. Great review!

July 31, 2013 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I am very much interested in finding out what that note contains now! I haven't been a huge fan of women's fiction in the past, but that may be because I just haven't found many great books. If you consider this to be a great book, then it's definitely something I should at least take into consideration. I really like the idea of intertwined narratives and how the three protagonists seem to be from quite different walks of life. That's great you were convinced to get an ARC of this novel after all. :)

July 31, 2013 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oooh, how was that? I got a review request but wasn't sure about it...

August 1, 2013 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

No, women's fiction is what it sounds like. Fiction about women that will likely interest a primarily female audience. I think they're labeled thusly to combat the tradition of books by old white men.

August 1, 2013 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Thanks so much! I hope I don't steer you wrong, but I thought it was beautiful.

August 1, 2013 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Perhaps it isn't. I totally love stories like that, because it's so cool to watch the connections form. I love seeing how authors weave it all together. I guess it is a bit artificial, and you know it's going to happen, but I just think it's so cool.

August 1, 2013 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I was too. It is possible to guess, but I totally didn't get it. lol.

August 1, 2013 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Right, well, it totally worked for, and I hope I don't lead you astray. :-p

August 1, 2013 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The affairs are minimal!

August 1, 2013 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Peaks the curiosity, doesn't it? I've been a pretty big Barbara Kingsolver fan and Margaret Atwood has some great stuff too. Anyway, I hope you like it!

August 1, 2013 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Anita Yancey said...

This book sounds good. Thanks for having the giveaway.

August 3, 2013 at 3:02 PM  

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