Monday, February 22, 2010

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Book description:
"There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels.

Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents' murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice’s daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen – who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.

But then the State's Attorney begins to suspect that Alice's husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.

This wonderful novel features Bohjalian's signature style. The dense yet lyrical prose carries the reader away and makes this book almost impossible to put down. The individual characters rise off the page and live, pulling the reader into an emotional investment with the story. Stephen, Heather, and Katie were the most successful and relatable narrators in this novel; I found neither Catherine's voice nor her story compelling which made for a disappointing midsection.

Without giving any spoilers, I will say the plot twist was something I speculated about early on which reduced its emotional impact as the story drew to a close. I also found it rather hard to relate to the angel theme that runs throughout the story; it never really connected emotionally for me despite Heather's personal experiences. Regardless, this a wonderful offering from a talented writer- highly recommended.

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