Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review - "The Language of Secrets" by Dianne Dixon

Dianne Dixon has written an admirable first novel about love and how it sustains us even through the worst times in life. Love takes many forms: between husband and wife, between college friends and lasting a lifetime, from mother to son, from father to daughter. Love can also be destructive, especially when secrets are necessary, either shared or unshared.

Justin has arrived back in the United States after some years away, and his wife wants their baby son to know his grandparents. Justin has always been evasive when talking about his family, but at the urging of Amy he takes them to the house where he was born. A stranger answers the door and ends up sending him on a journey to find not only his parents but his sisters too...and ultimately himself.

The Language of Secrets is told in sections, many from Justin's point of view but also from that of his parents, especially his other Caroline. We jump back in time and see Caroline as a young mother devoted to her husband but also still carrying torches for her two college friends, Mitch and Barton. Caroline's husband Robert is deeply in love with her, but one mistake leads to crime, and the secrets between Caroline and Robert fester and nearly explode the longer they stay silent.

Meanwhile, Justin struggles with holes in his memory while Amy struggles to please her overbearing father. She is caught between wanting to be the wife Justin needs her to be and wanting her dad to be the protector he always was. The two men do not get along, and Amy must choose one over the other in order to keep her sanity.

Justin's story starts and ends in California with stops in New England and London along the way. No life is unaffected through the thirty-plus years during which this novel unfolds, although all the characters may not realize just how much they have changed. There is a game-changing twist right at the end, shedding new light on all that came before.

This isn't exactly a suspense story, but it's also deeper than just a family saga. It's a page-turner with insights into relationships that make it a satisfying read.

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