By Liane Moriarty
“Why did she give up wine for Lent? Polly was more sensible. She had given up strawberry jam. Cecilia had never seen Polly show more than a passing interest in strawberry jam, although now, of course, she was always catching her standing at the open fridge, staring at it longingly. The power of denial.”
At first I was going to give this one 4 stars. The writing, as always with Liane Moriarty, was excellent. The inner dialogues with the 3 main characters slowly revealed their characters and as always, things are not what they seem to be at first. I love how their inner thoughts, as opposed to what their personas appear to be like to the outside world, can be so irreverent and insightful. She is great at dark humor. And I didn’t guess the secret almost until right before the reveal. That sure kept me intrigued. And I continued to be intrigued by how it was all going to play out.
However, I found most of the characters to be way too sad. And they continued to be sad throughout the book. If they weren’t sad, they were hateful. For example, At first, I thought Rachel was a damaged but ultimately sweet woman who will have some kind of healing or a new lease on life. But as it turns out, she was a cold, manipulative, selfish mother and mother-in-law. She is a little redeemed at the end, but not enough for my taste. I wanted more than a hint that she was not going to continue to make her son’s and his lovely wife’s lives miserable. I even found Tess’s 6-year-old son Liam very grating on the nerves. And John-Paul. I just find it inconceivable that a nice 17-year-old boy would ever try to strangle his girlfriend and then grow up to be a nice good man. He regretted his “mistake,” as it is referred to. Buddy, burning the casserole is a mistake. Strangling your girlfriend to her death is. not. a. mistake. And no, it doesn’t matter that she would have died that night anyway, because of her health issue. It is even hinted that it was good thing Janie, his victim, had a disease that caused her to die before John-Paul came to his senses. Because otherwise she would have gone to the police and he would have been arrested for assault! And then Mr. Perfect’s life would have been ruined! What? This is just sloppy and thoughtless writing. At one point, I wondered if John-Paul was going to go after Cecilia for reading the letter. That would have made more sense.
There were too many loose ends and unresolved plot lines. How and why did Cecilia become the neurotically organized homemaker, school Mom, neighbor, and Tupperware mogul that she was? What about her sinister mother-in-Law? What about Tess’s relationship with her Dad? Rachel and Cecilia’s fates were so cleverly, ironically, and thoughtfully intertwined. Tess’s thread, though interesting, was really not related to the other two protagonists at all. Their stories needed some more connectors to Tess. The Blurb for the book states: “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.” Uh, no they don’t. Rachel does, but not Tess.
And that info dump of an epilogue! Don’t get me started. I found it random, too pat, and gratuitous. It should have been way longer, more detailed and completely integrated with everyone included or not exist at all. How did Polly fair? The other two sisters? What about Lucy? What about Tess and Felicia’s relationship and their influence on each other? What happened with Lauren and Rob? Hell, what about one of the few completely likable characters in the book, Trudy the Principal, for that matter?
The Husband’s Secret was a fascinating page-turner. But it had too many flaws. It is one of her highest-rated books, but I liked 2 of her lower-rated books much better. For this reason, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on The Last Anniversary.
October 15, 2018