Liane Moriarty’s book “The Husband’s Secret” poses the question, “Can a basically good person do something terrible?”
This novel, set in Australia, tells the stories of three different women and their families, whose lives are affected by the huge mistake one man made when he was 17. The book opens with a reference to the story of Pandora.
Cecilia Fitzpatrick is happily married and living in Sydney with her three pre-teen daughters, Isabel, Esther and Polly.
They are well-off financially. Cecelia volunteers at St. Angela’s Girl’s School and has a good life. In the attic searching for something one day, she stumbles upon a letter her husband, John Paul, appears to have written to her many years before instructing her to open it only in the event of his death. She does not open the letter, but cannot stop wondering what it contains.
As the days go by, she muses on how he tried to commit suicide in his 20s before he met her, and how he was crying in the shower just before he left on this present business trip. When he returns three days early, he demands to know if she has opened the letter.
Meanwhile, Tess O’Leary is running an ad agency in Melbourne with her husband, Will, and her cousin and best friend, Felicity.
Tess and Will work well together, and Tess, too, thinks of herself as happily married. They have one son, aged 6.
One day her husband tells her something that changes everything, and Tess and their son immediately leave for Sydney to visit her mother.
The novel’s third protagonist, Rachel Crowley, is an elderly widow who works at St. Angela’s School.
She lives for her 2-year-old grandson. When she is with him she can almost forget the pain she carries over the murder of her teenage daughter, Janie, years ago.
Janie was found strangled in a park, and the killer was never identified. WhenRachel’s son tells her his family is moving to New York, she is distraught at the realization that this will mean that she cannot spend as much time with her beloved grandson.
The news each family hears is intertwined with family secrets that expand to the lives of the other women and the two husbands, as they all must work through its impact. Somehow they are connected by the secret contained in the letter and hidden by Cecelia’s husband.
Like Pandora, Cecilia can no longer resist the temptation, and eventually she just has to open the letter.
When secrets are revealed these characters must reassess their relationships to those closest to them. As the author writes, “None of us ever knows all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken.” One feels it is probably just as well.
The strands of the story are well written, especially where concerned with grief, mid-life crisis and love.
Ms. Moriarty builds suspense and explores human relationships; her characters grow and learn throughout the story.
In dealing with their problems and challenges, the author offers insight to readers about their own lives.