Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Best Kept Secret

Summary: Cadence didn't sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.

Her drinking snuck up on her - as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that's left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.

It wasn't always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.

Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn't understand, she is reaching for the bottle - even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It's only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….

Heartbreaking, haunting, and ultimately life-affirming,
Best Kept Secret is more than just the story of Cadence—it's a story of how the secrets we hold closest are the ones that can most tear us apart. -- Washington Square Press

There is no doubt that I received some wonderful books at this year's BEA, but my absolutely favorite so far just might be BEST KEPT SECRET by Amy Hatvany. I briefly read the description when I was handed the book and thought it looked good, but I admit that it went into my huge pile of books... until, I read S. Krishna's Books' tweets about how wonderful the book was. Since we have pretty similar taste in most books, I decided to drop everything and pick up BEST KEPT SECRET. And I just have to say "WOW!"  This is one book that definitely blew me away!

Does this ever happen to you? You love a book so much and you're just bubbling over with excitement for it, but you have a hard time telling your friends the reasons why. That's pretty much the case for BEST KEPT SECRET; and as a result, I'm afraid my review is going to fall short. Obviously, I loved this book -- from the character development, to the writing, to how it made me see alcohol addiction --  but I'm having a difficult time articulating why. Honestly, I just want to say "Read this novel" and "Pick it for your book club." But I feel as if I should at least try to highlight some of the reasons that this book impressed me so much.

First of all, I found the writing in this novel to be so good! It affected me like few novels do. In fact, I cried a number of times while reading this story, and I don't often cry when reading books that don't involve animals. My heart just broke over and over again for both Cadence and her son. And I think one of the reasons for my emotions was that Cadence was so real to me. While she was most definitely flawed, I could see parts of her in myself and my friends; and as a result, I think this book hit close to home for me. That's not to say that either myself or any of my friends have addiction issues! But what I am trying to say is that BEST KEPT SECRET made me realize that addiction could happen to someone I know; and it doesn't make them some horrible person.

I think that Ms. Hatvany's choice to tell this story in Cadence's voice really was very effective. Because I had the chance to really get to know Cadence and therefore realize how much she loved her child, I know I was more compassionate to her plight. As I read this novel, I felt that she really would fight to stay sober for her child. Had the book been written in Cadence's husband's voice or even third person, I'm sure I would have been more critical of Cadence and her ability to properly care for her son. But the author chose to write this story through the eye's of an alcoholic who also happens to be a mother, and her voice was so incredibly authentic. In fact, the entire time that I read this novel that Ms. Hatvany had, at the very least, experienced some of what Cadence went through. (And if you read Ms. Hatvany's story, you'll see why so much of this book rang true.)

Another reason that this book affected me so much is because I learned a few things while reading it -- and I totally wasn't expecting to have the reaction I did. When I picked up BEST KEPT SECRET, I was assuming that I would hate Cadence for allowing herself to drink too much and put her son at risk. I mean, how could a mom do that to someone she claims to love? And while I was angry at Cadence for some of her actions, I still found that I liked her and I was totally rooting for her to battle her addiction. And, here's the big one, I kind of wanted her to get custody of her son after she went through rehab! Now that was a huge surprise for me because I'm not usually the most compassionate and forgiving person.

BEST KEPT SECRET actually changed the way I see alcohol addiction, and Cadence's story brought so many complex issues to the forefront. Nothing in this novel is cut and dry -- that's for sure, especially Cadence's addiction and her parenting skills. It goes without saying that I never want to see a child at risk because of the parent's actions; however, I also believe that people can change and that we need to forgive. But if I'm being totally honest, would I want my children to live with a recovering alcoholic? I just don't know. What made BEST KEPT SECRET so very special to me is that it made me think and feel so much. And even though some time has passed since I read this novel, Cadence and her story are still in my thoughts.

BEST KEPT SECRET is one of the best discussion books that I've read in recent memory. Maybe it's just me, but I think Cadence is incredibly fascinating and I'd love to talk about her with some friends. She's so complex and, of course, she's majorly flawed as a woman and a mother because of her alcohol addiction. Personally, I was surprised by my feelings toward Cadence; and I have a feeling that many of my friends might feel differently. And as you know, whenever this is a chance for differing opinions, it always has the potential to make for a more interesting discussion! There is a fantastic reading guide available with some thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include parent/child relationships, divorce, custody arrangements, choices, forgiveness, redemption, and the big one -- addiction.

I wish I could give each and every one of you a copy of this book because I found it to be an extremely powerful read. It's one of those books that I just can't get out of my mind. And to me, that's a sign of an excellent book!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel.


Karlie said...

Wow! What a great review. You make me want to run out and buy a copy.

bermudaonion said...

This does sound amazing! Addiction does happen to so many nice people. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when their addiction is hurting other people.

Gayle said...

Sounds great! I'm excited to read this one, thanks.

Beth Hoffman said...

Fantastic review, Julie! And here's the icing on the cake -- Amy is a lovely person, which makes her book all the more special.

Dolly said...

I've been looking forward to reading this one for quite a while!!

Unknown said...

Oh, I am blown away by this lovely, lovely review. Thank you Julie, for all of your kind words, and for sharing them with your readers. I'm just stunned with gratitude!

For anyone who takes the time to read, I am honored! Please feel free to share your thoughts with me - I love to hear from readers, and LOVE to call in to book clubs or live Tweet with you as you chat about the book! :)

Many, many thanks for making this the best Wednesday ever!!

Unknown said...

Sorry, the above is me, Amy Hatvany! :) Not sure why my name didn't show up? Technically, not so much!

Terry Stoufer said...

I read this book as well...and I could not agree more with this review. It is a powerful book, and so important for us to read and understand things from the perspective of a woman such as Cadence.

Laura Kay said...

excellent review! I can't wait to read my copy!

Kailana said...

This sounds REALLY good!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Julie,

My husband has a quote that he is fond of saying to me, whenever I start to critcise anyone:

'You should never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes'

I guess that is how you are feeling after reading this book?

The passionate review was amazing and cerainly gave me food for thought, before I had even added it to my reading list.

Thanks for the recommendation.


Mrs. Melissa said...

I can't be silenced easily about a good book either! I've added this to my MUST READ list!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is such an outstanding review for what looks like an incredible book. I've read a few books on the same subject and have loved some, been underwhelmed by others. This looks like one I should definitely not miss. Thanks so much for the glowing review!

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

Great review! I went to put it on hold at the library after reading it and it was already on my list - I must have read Swapna's review too and put it on there then! LOL

Unknown said...

I've had my eye on this book just waiting for some reviews by bloggers I trust. I'm thrilled that you loved this book. Cadence sounds captivating, terrific and in a lot of pain. Alcohol addiction can be so damaging to so many people & is often the result of unresolved pain. This sounds like such a powerful, intense and beautiful story about Cadence and her addiction. Your review makes me want to run out and get this book now!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds fantastic! Great review!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I've seen this book and I think I may even have passed it up for review because I thought the subject too difficult to handle. But your review is making me regret that decision!

Beth F said...

Fabulous review -- between you and Swapna, I think I should read this next.

Jocelyn said...

I have been wanting to read this book for awhile. Thanks for the great review!