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.