The Secrets She Keeps: A Novel by Michael Robotham

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“Jack and I had skirmishes rather than battles. We are like Cold War diplomats who say nice things to each other while secretly stockpiling ammunition. When do couples run out of things to say, I wonder. When does the passion wane?”

When do secrets become the norm in a marriage? And how was the dazzling Meghan to know that her secrets will become dangerous to her child? What about the secrets we keep in order to lie to ourselves, to build a life we want but don’t truly have? How do delusions overtake reality so viciously that it endangers strangers? When you first decide to deceive, the moment you involve others, you’ve already lost control.

Two women are pregnant but their worlds are vastly different. Meghan has a seemingly charmed life, one of wealth, beauty,  chic friends, a handsome husband, beautiful children and a popular blog. Agatha is her polar opposite, pregnant and alone, working in a cruddy job stocking goods in a grocery store (a job she desperately needs) barely surviving, uninteresting, unloved, nearly invisible. Her one joy is the chance to witness Meghan’s beautiful life, Meghan is the one fresh breeze that sweeps through the depressing store. Imagine Agatha’s joy when she discovers that Meghan and her are both pregnant, share due dates close together and become friends. Agatha doesn’t know Meghan’s dream life is falling apart, that everything that appears perfect and beautiful from afar may have severe cracks upon closer inspection. Agatha has secrets of her own, some devastating, others horrifying. She spends her free time waiting for her reluctant boyfriend away at sea in the Royal Navy to call,and denying to see the bleak reality of her unpromising future. That is when she isn’t busy spying on Meghan and her perfect world in her secret hiding place. How much does she truly know from all her ‘watching’, what doesn’t she see?  Both Meghan and Agatha are liars, but some lies are far more poisonous than others.

When a baby goes missing… the reader is privy to a declining mind, as much as a declining marriage, both Agatha and Meghan step in their own mess over and over again. Some mistakes cannot be fixed, some make a mother look downright guilty… where is the baby? No one behaves as you expect, not even when they suspect something untoward is happening. This is any mother’s worst nightmare, and yet the reader feels sorry for the perpetrator.  What happens when you’re mind is breaking and no one is there to hear? What do you do when your lies are coming to a head and your life is on the verge of collapsing?

Who can guess that a moment of female camaraderie will open someone to danger beyond their wildest dreams? The terror of this novel is in the plausibility. We’ve seen stranger stories ripped right out of the headlines. What is more terrifying than a story that could be a true crime horror? Yet, it also manages to provoke feelings of tenderness and invite questions about the state of mental health. It reminds us when unthinkable things happen to someone, they carry it in their cells, that human beings should be far more involved  in the healing  and others held accountable for what happens to victims. Sadly, that isn’t the reality. The truth is, so many people are on their own, cast out when they should be heard, supported, and healed.  This novel is disturbing, yet all the characters made me feel it’s more than just a thriller/horror. Horror? Yes, because what people do to each other is far more horrible than any imagined monster.

I couldn’t put it down, I found myself in both Agatha and Meghan’s shoes. Though living in two separate worlds, they have one vital truth in common- neither woman is what she seems, and their lies are going to change both their lives. Everything will be exposed.

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Scribner

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