The title alone of Chris Bohjalian's latest book: The Secrets of Eden, drew me in, and never let go. Having read all of this author's books, I can say without a doubt that Bohjalian is one of those talented authors, who can expertly write about controversial subject matters and family issues while keeping the reader hanging on and anxiously turning the pages,
Secrets of Eden takes place in the small town of Haverhill, Vermont. The story is told through the perspectives of four central characters. From the very first pages the reader gets a feel of what is going on in the mind of Reverend Stephen Drew of the local Baptist Church......
(p.3) "On those sorts of Sundays, whenever someone would stand and ask for prayers for something relatively minor -- a promotion, traveling mercies, a broken leg that would surely mend --I would find myself thinking as I stood in the pulpit, 'Get a spine, you bloody ingrate! Buck Up! That lady behind you is about to lose her husband to pancreatic cancer, and you're whining about your difficult boss? Oh please! -- I never said that sort of thing aloud, but I think it is only because I'm from a particularly mild mannered suburb of New York City, and so my family has to be drunk, to be cutting. I did love my congregation, but I also knew that I had an inordinate number of whiners."
And, while all small towns have their secrets, no one including the Rev. Drew, was prepared for what would happen on the very day he baptized one of his own parishioners. On the very day that Alice Hayward came to be baptized in Brookner's pond, she along with her husband George would be found dead. The Haywards along with their teenage daughter Katie were prominent members of the community. At first their deaths were believed to be a murder-suicide, but when the State's attorney, Catherine Benincasa, begins to investigate she is not so sure. Slowly secrets are revealed, which help to unravel the mystery behind the deaths.
I don't want to reveal too much more about this story other than to say that there was one other prominent character in the story which I feel I need to mention. Heather Laurent is an author of spiritual books about angels. While Heather is in the area giving a talk at Bennington College, she hears about the murder-suicide and visits Rev. Drew to see if she can provide some spiritual assistance. Heather seems drawn to the Reverend, and becomes somewhat of a mentor to 15-year old Katie Hayward. Heather, like Katie, lost her parents to spousal abuse when she was about Katie's age.
MY THOUGHTS - In this riveting literary suspense novel, the author does a wonderful job with a difficult subject --spousal abuse, and its effects on a family and community. The author has created a vivid sense of place, a believable story, well drawn out characters and surprises along the way. Readers who enjoy compelling novels that touch on human emotions should not be disappointed with Secrets of Eden. RECOMMENDED (4/5 stars)
(Review copy provided by Shaye Areheart Books / Amazon Vine)