Secret Lives by Diane Chamberlain
Actress Eden Riley’s decision to make a film about her mother plunges her into a shattering confrontation with her own past, irrevocably altering her life and the lives of those she loves. Her mother, Katherine Swift, was a renowned children’s author who died when Eden was very young. Now Eden, recovering from a divorce and disillusioned with her glamorous life, returns to the childhood home of the mother she barely knew. She moves in with her uncle, archaeologist Kyle Swift and his wife, Louise.
Eden gets more than she bargained for when Kyle gives her the journal her mother had kept from the age of thirteen until her death. Eden is spellbound by the powerfully written, intimate diary that chronicles a life of hardship, madness and tragedy. But her fascination turns to horror when she discovers the shocking truth about her mother’s life.
Eden turns for comfort to Ben Alexander, Kyle’s colleague, not knowing that Ben has a secret of his own that could ruin Eden and her career. Now Eden must make a heartbreaking decision as she struggles to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and come to terms with her own future.
Shifting gracefully between Eden’s world and Katherine’s, Secret Lives seduces with the power of its images and the lyricism of its prose.
Secret Lives is a pleasant change from the previous cluster of books that I have read. I can’t remember where I found this book but it was its description that made me want to read it. As the story unfolds it’s apparent where the story is going to go but that doesn’t detract from it. This book is truly about the journey instead of the destination.
I really enjoyed this novel once I finally found the time to read it. I connected on a personal level to the character of Eden Riley. It made me re-evaluate the secrets of the people around me especially my mother and grandfather. I know my mother loves me but I can’t help the nagging thought that she’s keeping a secret just as paramount as the ones in this story.
I like the present story but I found myself relating with the Katherine story more. I do think this story is better crafted than the description gives it credit. I took this journey with Katherine, a woman struggling in her battle with agoraphobia, I absolutely loved this part. The journal entries are what give this novel its depth. I took my time with the journal entries, which far and few in between, slowed me down considerably. I was constantly getting lost in questions of my own life.
Diane Chamberlain has crafted a must read for familial secrets. I personally believe we are responsible for the information that we keep. I’m always reticent about what I let people tell me about family gossip. This book has me reconsidering that stance. Knowledge can lead to understanding and it’s put a new perspective on old family issues I stay out of.
Just like Eden I didn’t think there were major secrets that my mother kept until I queued into my mother’s affectionate title for me… “her first born.” It’s always been this title for as long as I can remember. I rarely remember her saying… “her first child.” I asked her about it years ago but she’s always evasive, so I let it go. It’s been years since it has even been a major thought in my head. But unlike Eden I hope my mother isn’t waiting until her death to drop her revelation or takes it with her to her grave.
I would be far more angered than Eden if it came out after her death. There are family secrets that my grandmother and grandfather have kept that are only coming out two years after his death. Some have already open cracks in the façade of this family. Even now I think if left to fester might rip this family apart, like Ben Alexander’s did.
I give Secret Lives 4 out 5.