From the best-selling author of The Double Bind, Midwives, and Skeletons at the Feast comes a novel of shattered faith, intimate secrets, and the delicate nature of sacrifice.
"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.
Secrets of Eden is both a haunting literary thriller and a deeply evocative testament to the inner complexities that mark all of our lives. Once again Chris Bohjalian has given us a riveting novel in which nothing is precisely what it seems. As one character remarks, "Believe no one. Trust no one. Assume all of our stories are suspect."
©2010 Random House Audio; ©2010 Chris Bohjalian
"Specificity and complexity and. . .a somber power." (Kirkus Reviews)
This book is told from four different view points. The first character and the last character would make for a compelling novella. The middle two characters are unlikeable and strident. It's almost as if a different and inferior author took on the two middle characters. I confess I don't even get the subplot obsession with angels. Skip it.
I've read or listened to other books by Chris Bohjalian and have enjoyed them. I didn't like any of the characters in this book and found its structure contrived and its narration annoying. I stopped listening about half way through. (I admit I grabbed a copy from the shelf at the Big National Book Store in my neighborhood and read the ending just to confirm it was going where I suspected. It was.) I don't recommend this book. Save your money and your credits and your ears.
I must say I was disappointed with this book. I have never read any books by this author before but ever since its release I was interested in reading this story. The summary made this book sound very interesting and even the cover had me intrigued. I finally purchased this book through Audible.com and listened to it on my MP3 player. The fact that the story was read by several different narrators to represent the different characters helped me get through this book. The book basically repeats the same story four times through different view points of those involved and got to be quite boring. The best thing about this book is the ending which totally took me by surprise. For a murder mystery story, this book wasn’t suspenseful and didn’t get the reader too involved by making you think about who the killer was. Instead, it make the killer very obvious and left you waiting for his demise, however, the ending completely abolished those thoughts and actually made me gasp with the shock of who the real killer was. This wasn’t the worst book I have ever read by far, but was not interesting enough for me to follow the author either.
I've been re-listening to my purchases from 6 years ago, and this one flew by (on fast playback) as I did projects around the house. I enjoyed having the different characters each take a section of the book. A few brief stories the State's Attorney told about her young children were amusing, but the majority of the book was dealing with abuse, alcoholism, murder-suicide, loss of faith...so be ready for that.
It was quite effective to have (4) narrators relating the story from varying perspectives. Several timely topics were incorporated into the story (spousal abuse, faith/loss of faith ). Well written. But the ending was out of sync with the prior narrative. I felt cheated.
I'm am avid reader who has found I can fit in more books by listening when I drive. I'm a busy mom/grandma who likes to travel and reading is my relaxation so I choose books that keep my interest.
Chris Bohjalian's story unfolds in a way that keeps you listening and wondering what will happen next. Each character is multifaceted and no major character is simply a device to move the story forward. The people in the story are not "good" or "bad". They are people dealing with stress and trauma and sometimes don't make good decisions.
The audio recording uses different narrators for different parts which is very effective in keeping the listener engaged.
The story has a twist at the end, which happens in all the Bohjalian novels I've read. The story line, the characters, the language, and the readers will keep you hanging on every word until the last one. And then you'll wish it wasn't over.
Based on having read 2 of Bohjalian's other books (Midwives and Double Bind), I was excited to read this one. I found the the structure of the earlier books to be tight and compelling and both contained unexpected twists. This one had a fairly interesting plot, but I found it predictable. I saw fairly early on who the murderer had to be, so the ending was anti-climactic. And what was Heather there for? This author can do better.
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