REVIEW: SUMMER SECRETS, BY JANE GREEN

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Our story begins in London, in 2014, with our MC Cat pondering her life: the choices she has made, the numerous mistakes, and the events that have led to her newfound serenity. She is a journalist; she is divorced, with a thirteen year old daughter, Annie; and her ex-husband Jason was the love of her life. But somehow she has made peace with what she has lost.

Flashbacks and fast forwards take us through Cat’s journey, and we soon learn about her addiction to alcohol, her numerous relapses, and how she finally bottomed out.

Nantucket is featured prominently in Summer Secrets, and as we connect with Cat’s mother Audrey’s story, we discover the very first big secret that defines their lives and informs what will come after.

Will Cat’s discovery of her mother’s secret change her life? Or will it lend itself to further disaster when she, too, visits Nantucket in 1998. What happens to finally alter Cat’s trajectory in life, and how will everything settle down for her? What will happen between Cat and her new-found half-sister Julia that will cause a rift that will last for years?

I loved settling into this story and feeling a connection to Cat. The descriptions of her drinking experiences echo some of mine, even though my journey did not lead to addiction. But hard partying was a common theme in the sixties and seventies, when I was young. I also loved the settings of London and Nantucket, even though I have never visited either place, except in books and movies. The author made me feel as if I were there.

As the story fast forwards to 2014 again, we see Cat returning to Nantucket to make amends…and when she believes that the past is truly behind her, she is stunned by an unexpected turn of events. How can she go on now, and what will ultimately bring about a resolution for her?

I loved this book and must give it five stars. Fans of Jane Green should enjoy this one.

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A MOTHER’S HEART-WRENCHING & GUTSY TALE — A REVIEW

From the first frank opening lines, I knew that Cadence’s story would be heart-wrenching, gutsy, and totally honest.

Her beginning confession of her greatest “sin,” being drunk in front of her child, told me that we were about to commence a journey that could only get more painful, but would also yield the unique wisdom that comes from coping with something horrendous, and yet living to tell about it.

We can see that being an alcoholic is difficult and challenging enough, but being an alcoholic mother can often result in the whispers, condemnation, and exclusion of other mothers. Almost as if the woman suffers from leprosy, or some other contemptible disease. Perhaps such a mother is at the wrong end of that continuum society often places women along—from Madonna to Whore—and there is no coming back from such a label.

Or is there? Perhaps in telling the story, other women who experience the same pain and the same journey will not feel quite so alone.

The author brings us Cadence’s story from her first-person point of view, which allows the reader to truly experience the journey along with the narrator. It begins as a love story, when Cadence and her husband Martin meet: it leads us to the birth of Charlie, along with those early difficulties in parenting. And we see Martin, as he turns almost totally toward his career and away from Charlie and Cadence. Until finally the marriage falls apart.

It is in the second year after the divorce that Cadence turns more and more to the bottle to help her cope. A struggling freelance writer, she has to manage parenting and writing at home, with all the distractions inherent in those roles.

As I read about how Cadence “bottoms out,” with Martin taking her child away and suing for custody; and then as I watch her struggle to address her disease and begin recovery, even as she faces the outcome of the courts deciding whether or not she will be the primary custodial parent, I could not help but rapidly turn those pages. I immediately connected with Cadence, and felt an almost appalling enmity for Martin and his judgmental mother Alice. I knew I was “taking sides,” but sometimes that happens in stories that really grab me.

Waiting for the final outcome would be excruciatingly painful. I knew it. But I kept going. I loved this excerpt toward the end of Best Kept Secret: A Novel, when Cadence “does battle” with an array of unopened wine bottles, trying to decide her next step:

“When the wine is gone and my tears are finally spent, I look through the kitchen window into my backyard. The sky is the royal hazy blue of impending day. The storm clouds have passed, leaving a faint netting of stars to adorn the sky. I swallow to calm the nerves that jiggle in my throat. I will find a way to get on with things. I’ll gather up my black, fluttering scraps of guilt and resentment and pain and somehow knit them together into a way to survive. And though I’m afraid, though shame claws at the gates of my mind, I walk over to the table and I reach for the phone.”

Moments like these throughout this story had me clutching my throat with empathy, while other lines brought laughter, joy, and even a gasp of recognition. A powerful and emotional read, I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever struggled with anything challenging. And survived.

Five stars.

***

I won this book from Great Thoughts.