Liane Moriarty’s smart and steady adult contemporary best-seller, The Husband’s Secret, entertains and disturbs by portraying and connecting people in the story in ways that make the reader question how relationships, secrets, and choices define its characters and people in real life. The reader experiences a week in the lives of several likable characters from different families living in Sydney and Melbourne whose lives are intertwined in both the past and present. As detailed accounts of character traits and histories unfold, the reader is invested in their experiences and considers the broader implications of their decisions, in part because they are uniquely human and flawed. The reader notices ways the things people let go or carry with them change lives.
The author gains the reader’s interest and consideration by creating a quick-paced and mysterious story with many interesting characters, whose secrets and the choices they make as a result, impact their lives, changing the ways they view themselves, those around them, and the world. Using protagonist, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who finds an envelope addressed to her from her husband John-Paul, to be opened upon his death, the author asks the reader to consider the results of harboring secrets. The unanswered questions Moriarty devises about her characters, create a suspenseful story and make the reader think about how choices to be dishonest or truthful govern outcomes of situations in the real world. When Cecilia and the reader learn John-Paul’s secret together, the reader empathizes with Cecilia’s doubts and hesitancy to reveal him; her instinct is to protect her family instead of doing “the right thing.” The characters and the story are intriguing because the reader can both distance him or herself from the fictional characters and still perceive the events happening to real people in real situations.
The reader is invested in, concerned about and affected by the various characters, who are likable and believable because of their mistakes and imperfections. As Cecilia’s family mysteries are revealed, among others, the reader notices in the thoughts and actions of different characters, things they each hide. Tess has Social Anxiety Disorder. Felicity is in love with her best friend’s and cousin’s husband. Connor doesn’t really have an alibi for the day of Janie Crowley’s murder. Rachel Crowely, Janie’s mother, hates her life and most everyone in it. Still, the reader is not disgusted or repelled by these faults and blunders. Instead, no matter how different a character is from the reader, the character is significant and understandable. As if the lives of the characters are his or her own, the reader is on their side, and he or she finds him or herself wanting to know more. The reader quickly reads and turns the pages to see how things will end, because no matter the result for the characters, Moriarty makes them and their circumstances genuine.
The Husband’s Secret, is successful and memorable, because it entertains while also posing relevant questions about the reader’s experiences. He or she enjoys the characters for their individuality, yet they stand out because of the ways they excite the reader and make him or her wonder: what decision will she make? how will her choice affect others? would I or could I do the same? The reader sees through the lenses of the characters and story, more than a well written mystery; he or she starts to see how this mystery exists in his or her life too.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars