This month’s Between the Lines book was The Husband’s Secret. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but it did not disappoint. The “secret” was something I was not at all expecting and the ending was terribly tragic.
The book opens with Cecilia, a housewife who is super organized and very involved in her kids school and their lives. She has a loving husband who just so happens to be holding on to a horrible secret. He decides to write his secret down in a letter to his wife to be read after his death. Except, things don’t quite turn out that way and Cecilia finds the letter in their closet with her husband very much alive. She doesn’t read it for a while, but the curiosity finally gets to her and she reads it.
Then there is Tess, a woman on the verge of a divorce because her husband decided to fall in love with her best friend and cousin. It was weird for me to understand that concept, but apparently it happens when you are with someone almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – as Tess and Felicity are. Tess moves her and her son in with her mom and they start a new life together. But did her husband ever really cheat on her?
1. When Cecilia finds the letter addressed to her from her husband, “To be opened only in the event of my death,” she is tormented by the ethics of opening it. Do you agree with her ultimate decision? What would you have done?
As much as I want to say that I would probably wait to open it, the anticipation of what would be inside the letter would win. I hate surprises and if there was something written to me by my husband, I would probably read it. I agree with her because she did what I would have done. I might have worried about what was in the letter and if I should read it, like Cecilia did, but I would open it in the end.
2. Tess has suffered her whole life from crippling social anxiety. How has this made everyday situations a challenge for her? Why has she never confronted her problem? Why doesn’t she tell anyone about it?
I could feel for Tess with her anxiety. I have dealt with that before and it was extremely difficult to be in social situations at times. But I also don’t understand why she didn’t confront it. If she knew she had a problem, why didn’t she go and seek help? Yes, I know that it can take a while to find someone to talk to. I know from personal experience, but I also know that talking to someone about what is going on is so important. It can truly change your life and get you back up on your feet.
I wish I knew why she never talked to anyone or did anything about it. Maybe she didn’t realize what was happening since she never talked about it? That is something I definitely don’t agree with, but I can sympathize with.
3. Grief is a major theme in the novel, and many of the characters have suffered as a result of their losses. How do each of the characters cope with their grief? In what ways have their lives have been irrevocably altered as a result of their grieving?
You know, grief is a strange thing. It affects people so differently. Some people want revenge for deaths that were taken too soon. Some people just want to be able to get out of bed in the mornings and get through their days. Some people can conquer it and prove that they don’t stand in the way of grief. But it is such a touchy thing when you think about it.
No one grieves the same way that you do, and that is important to remember.
4. Consider the notion of betrayal in this book. Which characters have betrayed someone they love? Are their acts of betrayal premeditated, or are they unplanned decisions that become regrettable actions?
Part of me thinks that every character in the book betrayed someone they loved. Cecilia betrayed her husband by reading his letter. John Paul has this terrible secret for years and never tells anyone. Tess cheats on her husband with Connor. Rachel betrays Janie by not being able to move on with her life. She is so resentful that her daughter isn’t there, that she can’t see the great things going on in her life.
As mentioned last month, July’s selection is: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Below are the discussion questions:
1. On the surface, Vivian’s and Molly’s lives couldn’t be more different. In what ways are their stories similar
2. What role does Vivian’s grandmother play in her life? How does the reader’s perception of her shift as the story unfolds?
3. Vivian’s name changes several times over the course of the novel: from Niamh Power to Dorothy Nielsen to Vivian Daly. How are these changes significant for her? How does each name represent a different phase of her life?
4. When Vivian and Dutchy are reunited, Vivian remarks, “However hard I try, I will always feel alien and strange. And now I’ve stumbled on a fellow outsider, one who speaks my language without saying a word.” How is this also true for her friendship with Molly?
Join us July 21st as we discuss The Orphan Train.