Title: The Secret of Lies
Author: Barbara Forte Abate
Publication date: April 21, 2010
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: Amazon US | The Book Depository
Propelled by an insurmountable sense of desperation, Stevie Burke is recklessly abandoning home, husband, and outwardly contented life under cover of night; at last resigned to defeat in her long battle against the tortured memories of her past.
Days later, lost and floundering in a dreary motel room without plan or destination, it is a long ago song playing on the radio that gently tugs Stevie back through the dust of remembrance. 1957 – The last summer spent at the ancient house overlooking the North Atlantic. A season which had unfolded with abundant promise, but then spiraled horribly out of control – torn apart by a shattering tragedy that remains splintered in fragments upon her soul. And it is only now, when Stevie at last lifts her eyes to stare deep into the heart of her long sequestered memories, that the long held secrets of past and future are at last unveiled.
The Secret of Lies has to be one of the best stories I’ve read this year, without a doubt. The writing style is brilliant in itself – Abate writes with such elegance and sophistication that you cannot help being drawn to the story and the characters.
What I loved about the set up is that the prologue starts with the end of the story. We know from the start that Stevie runs away from home, we know the consequences – but we don’t know how it all happened. Abate keeps you in agonising suspense from the very beginning and makes you want to find out what’s the cause of Stevie’s misery.
The first half of the book serves as a flashback – we get to know Stevie and her older sister, Eleanor – two teenagers who used to spend their summer vacations with Uncle Cal and Aunt Smyrna on Long Island. Up until something happens (I don’t want to give too much away, you see *wink wink*) and a dark, scandalous secret tears apart their family. The second half of the book, set on the family farm a few years later, deals with how Stevie can cope with this childhood trauma and all these emotions she managed to bottle up throughout the years.
All the characters are very relatable but Stevie was the one who I had an instant connection with. I could almost feel what she felt back then – how she was held captive by the same life she always had. How she was afraid to fall in love, to let others see her emotions, how she turned into someone twice her age while she gradually alienated herself from her friends and family, while she kept saying “they don’t understand“.
The only negative thing I can mention is that for me the novel started out a little bit slow, but still, it’s not too slow to put you off, and there are always subtle references to later parts of the story which leave you wanting more, wanting to find out what’s going on.
The Secret of Lies is a captivating, tear-jerking coming of age novel with a great storyline, relatable characters and sophisticated writing style. Abate describes everything in so much detail, with such eloquence that The Secret of Lies is guaranteed to leave you in complete awe. I would definitely recommend it to everyone and I’m looking forward to see what the author comes up with next.
“Maybe it’s the raw brilliance of the pale white moon suspended in a hard black sky that somehow makes everything about this night feel harsher. Uglier. Failing to soften what now seems especially unconscionable.
But I pretend not to notice, cautiously opening the door of Ash’s old blue Buick and sliding into the drivers’ seat, ignoring the question that all at once arrives with the insistence of knuckles rapping on glass, as to what I will do if the car doesn’t start. As it is, every movement feels sharply critical, increasingly desperate, my insides tightly clenched around the fear that Ash will wake before I’m gone.”