Our meeting was lively, filled with chatter and energy. Before the meeting, as we gathered our snacks, we discussed Australian food, science experiments, and our next book. There was a lull as I asked who wanted to be the first responder; the silence was palpable, oddly wary. But then one member said that he hadn’t liked The Husband’s Secret at first. He found it hard to follow and it seemed to him that they were just talking in the book because they’re women! Sixteen women and three men all laughed – and we were off!
In the end, he really did like the book, and despite any flaws we later discussed, everyone seemed to agree. It was crafted, interlocking storylines like a picture puzzle. One member thought at first that it was a collection of short stories. Several of us had trouble following the characters, though by the end we’d figured it out. The author seemed like a psychologist. It was a character study with a weak plot. Was anyone else annoyed that Tess went back to her husband? The importance of and love for children was the most notable element of the novel. Rachel’s accident seemed contrived. How could John-Paul possibly misplace such a letter? Why would he write it? Why didn’t he address it to Rachel? Maybe he wanted to be caught! He was just a teenager. A teenager is old enough to know what he does. We didn’t forgive him.
We all found something that resonated – the love for our grandchildren, children, and parents; regrets for our failures. We of course discussed secrets. The secrets in the book seemed self-indulgent. Even as we all chatted, sometimes with shushing going around as well, we had long moments of reflection. The writing was easy to read, and one member found it particularly striking in comparison to last month’s Sherlock Holmes novel. No one found the writing particularly beautiful, but themes were memorable, such as “ignorance is bliss.”
When I read the book, I found it interesting enough to keep me reading, but I found it shallow, like every random thought in my own head was being put down on paper without any answers. The popularity of the book (16,136 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars!) astounded me and I was a little concerned about how the discussion would go. After the discussion, however, I feel a fondness for the book, for the enthusiasm and chatter it aroused. Each book has its place, its value. And each of us, too!
- Other works discussed:
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Crash (2005) DVD
- Defending Jacob by William Landay
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman