Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the type of woman who keeps to herself: quiet, rational, and, above all, honest. But one fateful day, a letter changed all of that; a letter meant for her with a secret. In “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty, she asks readers the ultimate question: Can truth confine us or set us free?
The novel opens with the Fitzpatricks, Cecilia; John-Paul, her husband of more than 20 years; and their three daughters, Isabel, Esther and Polly. The novel, which is set in Sydney, Australia, is captured well by Moriarty, an Australian native. Moriarty’s wonderful grasp of locale lends itself greatly to the backdrop as well as character development.
When readers are first introduced to Cecilia she is sitting in her home, letter in hand, going through a list of every friend she has – most of whom would tell her to rip that letter open and read away. After all, the letter was addressed to her, albeit in the event of her husband’s passing. But, with her husband very much alive, only a few voices came through in opposition. It was wrong. Bad karma. Ultimately, however, majority rules and, eventually, Cecelia decides to read the letter.
Afterward, Cecilia’s thoughts of John-Paul immediately change. “Cecilia thought she’d experienced anger before, plenty of times, but now she knew that she had no idea how real anger felt. The white-hot burning purity of it. It was a frantic, crazy, wonderful feeling.” In one instant, Cecilia moves from a fulfilling and quaint life to one harboring a great secret – her husband’s – a past so brilliantly spun by Moriarty that even our lips must remain sealed. Once the letter is opened, Pandora’s box is unleashed.
The novel then unfolds with three intersecting narratives of women: Cecelia, Tess, and Rachel, undergoing immense turmoil. At first, the intersecting plot lines may not make sense, but soon after the secret is revealed, more secrets quickly come unraveled and three stories become one.
Moriarty gives readers various points of views throughout the work with a predominant theme of compassion in the background; particularly each character’s ability to not only understand that life is not black and white, but also to forgive errors of the in-between. In the end, each character chooses a path and readers find that only through forgiveness can the truth set you free. In circular motion, then, Moriarty’s use of Alexander Pope’s quote becomes all that much more significant: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.”
‘The Husband’s Secret’ by Liane Moriarty Rating: W W W W V