Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Secret Between Us

The Secret Between Us
by Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday Publishers
Reviewed by Melissa

There are good books that are decent discussion books. Then there are those books that are simply made for discussion, that beg to be discussed, that need some sort of processing to get through. And then there are books, like this one, that are somewhere in the middle (and even come with the reading group questions). They are not exactly a book that begs to be discussed about, but one that would make for some more-than-decent discussion.

Deborah Monroe has it all together. Mostly. She's a respected doctor in practice with her father in her home town. She has two beautiful children. The only real sore spot is that her perfect marriage to the perfect man failed a couple years back. So, when she and her 16-year-old daughter hit a man with their car driving home at night during a rainstorm, things get complicated. Deborah makes one of those instant "mom" decisions, sending Grace home and taking the blame. It's a deception (it didn't start as an outright lie) that begins to gnaw at Grace and Deborah and everything that they thought their life was.

It's a fairly compelling story; it's not deep, exactly, but you can understand the decision making and can see how and why it's tearing their lives apart. There are layers of secrets in the book, festering, and like a wound, it's only through some major surgery that everything finally begins to make more sense. I appreciated the characters -- both Deborah and Grace -- and thought Delinsky deftly juggled between an adult and a teenage perspective on both the accident and the events resulting from the accident. It's not easy reading a book that flits between main characters, but I felt like I connected with both Deborah and Grace, like they were both fully fleshed out, and neither one was slighted.

The male characters were mostly on the sidelines in this book -- it was really heavy on the female empowerment -- there was Dylan, the 10-year-old son/brother, Greg the ex-husband, Michael the dad and Tom the brother of the accident victim. They weren't exactly sympathetic, but Delinsky managed to make them challenging without making them hostile to women. The relationships they had with the women in the book were all about expectations and lack of understanding. It was nice to see that there was growth, and eventual resolution.

Perhaps that's the one thing that bothered me about the story: it was too pat. Deborah and Grace had a crisis, they confronted it/them, and everything resolved for a nice happily ever after. It just didn't quite sit right. Happily ever afters are for fantasy books, and while I think Delinsky left some ends loose for a reason, I don't know if it was messy enough to be believable. It was, however, a decent exploration on the nature of secrets and of decision making.

Which makes for a pretty good book group discussion.

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