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. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
The Secret of Lies by Barbara Forte Abate has to be one of the best novels I have ever had the pleasure to read. I was shocked to learn this is Abate’s first published work. Her writing style brings to mind such authors as Harper Lee and John Steinbeck. She writes with such detail, bringing images to life with the stroke of her pen. In her debut novel, she delivers a touching tale about, love, innocence, betrayal, loss and lies.
Secret of Lies reflects back on events that occurred off the Atlantic coast during the summer of 1957. The story unfolds through the voice of protagonist Stevie Burke. When the tale begins, Stevie is sneaking out of her home and leaving her husband. She is driving aimlessly and ends up in a dark musty hotel room three days later. We can tell that she is deeply troubled by something. It is here, as an Elvis song plays on the radio, that she reflects back on the summers, she and her sister spent at the shore home of their Aunt Smyrna and Uncle Cal.
Abate writes with a paint brush, bringing the seaside, storms, and fields to life. I could feel the wind and smell the sea air. She has a gift for beautifully expressing the emotions and feelings of a first kiss, a betrayal and loss. She unfolds the tale allowing the reader to put the pieces together before Stevie, giving us a sense of foreboding. While the subject matter is dark, Abate also shows us the light. We experience the joy of first love, childhood, and innocence.
Abates creates characters that you will love, pity and loathe. The character of Stevie is beautifully portrayed and you cannot help but like her. The way in which Abate shows the interaction between Stevie and her sister Eleanor reminded me of my own childhood. After the tragedy of 1957, we see firsthand how this affects Stevie. She struggles with the secrets and her memories. Years later,she meets Ash Waterman; through him she may finally find peace and happiness. I found myself rooting for this young man as he struggles to understand Stevie. The romance that develops between them is sweet, witty and romantic.
The story, the circumstances, and the impact it has on the characters is believable and touching. The events that occurred in the summer of '57 could have happened to any family. The ending is not wrapped up in a pretty little bow, but instead allows the reader to determine the outcome. While some may not like it, I feel it was appropriate. After all, life and family drama, do not come in neat little boxes.
I highly recommend this novel to everyone, but particularly those who enjoy books based on family, tragedy and human emotion. This would make a wonderful book club read. I have added Barbara Forte Abate to my list of must read authors and look forward to her next book.
I want to thank the author for providing this ARC, in exchange for my unbiased review.
I gave this book 5 coffee cups out of 5.
Labels: Barbara Forte Abate, fiction, Secret of Lies