Friday, July 4, 2008

Review: The Safety of Secrets

Summary: "Now we're just alike." So begins Fiona and Patricia's friendship that warm autumn morning in first grade in Lake Charles, Louisiana, their bond forged ever closer by Fiona's abusive mother and Patricia's neglectful one. Their relationship is a source of continuity and strength through their move to L.A. to become actresses; through Fiona's marriage and Patricia's sudden fame. When husband and career pressures exact a toll, the women wonder if their friendship can survive. Then a dark secret from their past emerges, threatening to destroy not only their bond, but all they've worked for as well.

The Safety of Secrets is a beautifully written exploration of the bonds forged in childhood and challenged decades later, of the fulfillment of dreams and the damage they can cause, and of secrets being uncovered and the truth we find inside. -- Avon A

I was very excited when I was selected to read THE SAFETY OF SECRETS by Delaune Michel for the Harper Collins First Look Program. I just had a feeling that this story would make a terrific book club selection. From the moment that I started the book, I was caught up in the story of Fiona and Patricia. After completing the book, I am so happy to say that I was not disappointed!

Basically, this book is about the life-long friendship between Fiona and Patricia -- two girls who became best friends in elementary school and now find themselves working as actresses in L.A. There are many secrets in this story, but the book builds until the reader learns one very big secret that occurred when the girls were children. This secret is so big that it threatens to tear apart their friendship and destroy Fiona's relationships with many special people in her life.

I found myself loving the character of Fiona; and despite all of the secrets and deceptions in the book, I thought she seemed to be a very "real" character. So much of what she said and thought about her husband and best friend just struck me as being authentic. Having said that, I didn't always agree with her -- I'm just saying that she was very believable. I especially liked how Fiona grew throughout the book and was eventually able to better understand herself as well as other important people in her life.

One thing that really affected me in the story was the relationship between Fiona and her mother. I think it was even more troubling for me because Fiona was pregnant with her first child, and she didn't want to have the same relationship with her own daughter. I don't want to give too much away about Fiona's childhood, but I was in awe of some of her mother's behavior towards her. This book really shows how events that take place in our childhood can continue to affect us throughout our entire lives.

I really appreciated Ms. Michel's writing style -- I felt the book moved quickly and flowed extremely well. The story most definitely held my interest, and the author did a wonderful job of drawing the reader in. I couldn't read fast enough to find out what the "big secret" was that happened to Fiona as a young girl. The chapters moved back and forth between present day and Fiona and Patricia's childhoods; and I enjoyed both parts of the story equally well. I thought that making L.A. the setting for this book was perfect. What could be a better place for a book about secrets to take place in than a city whose entire existence is based on various forms of deception?

Ms. Michel comes from quite an impressive family of authors including her uncle Andre Dubus and her cousin James Lee Burke. In addition to be a writer, Ms. Michel also worked as a model and an actress. I'm assuming that many of her stories about L.A. were probably based on her actual experiences while living there.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE SAFETY OF SECRETS and wouldn't hesitate to read her other book and her short stories. As part of the A+ Author Insights, Extras, & More section at the back of the book, there is an extremely interesting interview with Ms. Michel (you can also read it here.) I was especially interested in learning that she created Spoken Interludes, a reading series where all types of writers read their own work. In 1991, she made Spoken Interludes a non-profit arts organization; and she now runs Spoken Interludes Next a writing program for at-risk teenagers.

I am very interested in the underlying themes in this story, and I truly feel that THE SAFETY OF SECRETS would make a wonderful book club pick. I took a quick look at the reading guide, and I think you'll agree that there are some very interesting questions to talk about -- here's the link. I think there are so many issues to discuss including abuse, friendship, motherhood, marriage and especially the effects of secrets.

I would love to hear if any of you have read this book and what you think. I'm just dying to talk about it with someone!

10 comments:

Cheryl said...

I have not read this book yet but am glad you liked the characters.

Jeane said...

I haven't read it yet but I certainly want to now! I'll come back and comment more when I have.

kristen said...

Thank you for the link to the First Look program, Julie! Your wonderful reviews have hooked me and I can't wait to become a member! :)

skrishna said...

Great review! I definitely want to read this now!

Ti said...

I was also selected to read this and never got the book. I'm so disappointed! It was my first First Look book too.

I did enjoy your review though.

Amy said...

I have this book in my TBR..it's one I was able to get signed at BEA. I really want to read it now!

Julie P. said...

Ti,

So weird. I actually got picked for four books in June, but only received two of them. Coincidentally, I just happened to have a copy of this book sent to me a few weeks ago from someone else at Harper Collins.

Amy said...

I think Harper Collins is a little messed up. I never received the book I was supposed to get for June, but also did not receive notification until about a week before the review was due.

Obviously, organization is not their strong suit.

Julie P. said...

I didn't receive HIDDEN which I was selected to review, but they did send me a reminder that I should have my review posted! UGH!

delaune said...

Hey
I just came across your blog on the web, and I am so happy that you liked my book, and posted a review. What you wrote was so thoughtful and insightful - I feel like I learned about Fiona from you! And that is actually one of my favorite things about this process - putting the work out in the world, and finding out more about it once people start reading it and making it their own. So thank you for that. It meant the world to me. I am available for speaker phone book clubs, if that is ever of interest, and can be reached at www.delaunemichel.com.
I hope you are having a great week.