11 April 2020

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I really, really loved HBO's adaptation of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and wanted to read this in advance of it being adapted for television in the near future. I really thought I read Big Little Lies but having read this Moriarty novel I now doubt that I have. She perfectly combines a thrilling mystery with deep characters we can relate to, all with some of chick-lit themes that make her books really approachable. The Husband's Secret is very good and I ignored all adult responsibilities to read it over the course of a weekend.

The format of the novel will be familiar to you if you watched or read Big Little Lies. There are ~3 main characters, each with their own mini-plots that weave into each other. Each chapter flips between the characters and their stories which is a style I personally love because there really is something for everyone. If you're going through X, you may relate more to character A, etc. I also enjoy the variety.

It seemed that all her vomiting in gutters and crying in pantries had been for show, because as long as nobody else was accused, she would keep his secret. Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who always volunteered first, who never sat quietly when something needed to be done, who always brought casseroles and gave up her time, who knew the difference between right and wrong, was prepared to look the other way. She could and would allow another mother to suffer. Her goodness had limits. She could have easily gone her whole life without knowing those limits, but now she knew exactly where they lay."

The major characters are Cecilia- a pulled together mom, pampered chef consultant, and envy of most of the women in their town, Rachel- a grandmother grieving the loss of her daughter ~25 years earlier who was the victim of a brutal unsolved murder, and Tess- newly moved back to town after her husband revealed he was in love with her cousin and best friend. You get to know their families and really strong narrative style allows you to really get to know each of them. I felt this way about Big Little Lies even just from the show so I'm really eager to read the book now and milk all the details I missed out of Moriarty's writing style.

I really don't want to spoil this plot because I do think it'll be a big hit on television BUT there is a major twist you learn early on and the rest of the book is really about how each of these characters respond to the information or lack thereof. I liked this a lot as opposed to building up a mystery throughout the story because I've always been fascinated with how people cope with change.

There is a LOT of good material in here about both marriage and parenting- my two favourite topics. Each of the plot lines have their own marital tribulations woven through them. What I found predominately is that the book asks over and over again, what are you willing to accept from your spouse? And over and over again it shows that we don't ever really know. We all think we know our limits until we're pushed to them. 

They could fall in love with fresh, new people, or they could have the courage and humility to tear off some essential layer of themselves and reveal to each other a whole new level of otherness, a level far beyond what sort of music they liked. It seemed to her everyone had too much self-protective pride to truly strip down to their souls in front of their long-term partners. It was easier to pretend there was nothing more to know, to fall into an easygoing companionship. It was almost embarrassing to be truly intimate with your spouse; how could you watch someone floss one minute, and the next minute share your deepest passion or most ridiculous, trite little fears?"

On the parenting front there are some very difficult plot lines involving the death of children. The ways it was addressed reminded me a lot of Judy Blume's Smart Women in that you see multiple perspectives of how various adults handle the same incident. Near the very beginning we learn Cecilia watched a tiny boy dressed for Halloween step off a curb and get hit by a car a year prior to the story. Throughout, Cecilia becomes a key player in other incidents and she is constantly haunted by the little boy. I love love love this passage where she describes how people reacted on that Halloween:

It was true, perhaps, that ever since that morning last year, she'd been aware of an underlying sense of fragility, a new understanding that a life of coriander and laundry could be stolen in an instant, that your ordinariness could vanish, and suddenly you're a woman on your knees, your face lifted to the sky, and some women are running to help, but others are already averting their heads, with words not articulated, but felt: Don't let this touch me."

The TV adaptation of this book was announced last year but seems not to have developed into much so far besides casting Blake Lively in a leading role. It actually seems like Moriarty's Nine Perfect Strangers will be produced first. 

I really enjoyed this and am eager to continue reading Moriarty's fiction, including going back to Big Little Lies even though I know the plot. I think any woman would enjoy this. Women who typically stick to really basic chick-lit would find this really approachable and women who enjoy more depth to their novels will feel satisfied. 

1 comment:

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