After tasting the dark realms of domestic psychological thrillers in the likes of B.A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors and Belinda Bauer’s The Shut Eye, I yearned for more – to quench my thirst for such books which transported me to an alternate reality (or is it parallel universe? whatever.) Therefore I was really excited when I came across a book titled “The Husband’s Secret”. Unfortunately, that was not available when I got to the bookstore, so I begrudgingly settled for this one which was written by the same author. Doesn’t sound quite as exciting as a husband’s life-changing domestic secret- but close enough, I thought.
The main characters: an erratic organized ‘keep-to-themselves’ couple Erika &Oliver, a ‘closer-to-normal’ family Clementine & Sam + 2 kids, an extroverted family Vid and Tiffany + 1 kid. The plot centralizes around a barbecue hosted by Vid and Tiffany, and how an event at the barbecue changed all their lives. Sounds pretty exciting right? The story shuttles back and forth between the day of the barbecue and several weeks after. Think of the event at the barbecue as ground 0. The story sort of goes, +10, -5, +15, -1, +20, 0, +25, +5. Geddit? It finally goes back to ground 0 from different perspectives.
Allow me start off by warning the potential reader. The plot moves along very slowly. I mean very, very slowly. Real slow, bordering on painful. I felt myself getting impatient so many times. The writing at the beginning grips you for just the slightest bit, allowing you just the tiniest few vague hints. Now, imagine if you were trapped in a dark room with sold concrete for walls. At random times throughout the day a small shutter is opened, letting you see through just the tiniest slit. When you rush over to try looking out of it, before you could have your eyes adjust to the sunlight outside- it closes again and you are left in the darkness, awaiting the next chance to be able to look out. The best part is, the location of the shutter changes every time. This was how the book made me feel. you are given vague hints about what happened – but before it could be elaborated, Moriarty closes the door on you again.
This frustrated me and my interest waned a couple of times. You will only get to know what the said event is at the 60% mark, approximately. When I found out, my first reaction was ‘meh‘. How anti-climatic! I was expecting something more. Perhaps i should have read this before the two novels I mentioned earlier. it didn’t get better from this point. There were some instances that sent a little shiver from my brain to my body, but that was it. No explosive hit-by-a-truck realization.
One redeeming point is that there are several instances peppered with very genuine humor. Moriarty bravely says what we are thinking but would not have said out loud for fear for social reprisal. At some points I burst out laughing ( I remember 2 or 3 especially good ones. I’ll go look for these excerpts and put them down below when I can.
Rating 4/10 (plot build-up unfolds too slowly, far too slowly. May be forgivable if not for the anticlimactic reveal. Table-slapping-worthy humorous at times)
Excerpts below, as promised. To lend some context, I gave some background (bolded). Let me know if you found them hilarious too!
(Slightly socially awkward situation where two families visit another family’s place for the first time and trying hard to be polite)
‘Hi!’ called back Tiffany, walking down the steps to meet them. As they got closer, she saw they all had identical glazed smiles, like people who have recently got into drugs or religion, or a new pyramid sales scheme.
(Sam and Clementine on their children Ruby and Holly)
Ruby and Holly were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family. They were adored and spoiled, and Sam and Clementine lapped up the adoration with such casual vanity, for hadn’t they created these exquisite little angels? Why, yes they had, so they deserved their pick of free babysitters and they deserved to sit back and be fed home-made treats when they went to visit, for look what they offered in return: these glorious grandchildren!
(Sam on his way to work in a ferry, watching a kid hard at work fastening the ferry to the dock – which made him compare the kid to himself who have did absolutely nothing at his office job past couple of days, except for digitally doodling on his computer screen)
The kid probably didn’t realize that a white-collar worker could spend a whole day in his office doing nothing, literally sweet fuck-all, and still get paid for it. … … If Sam had a blue-collar job, he would have lost it weeks ago. He thought of this dad. Stan the Man couldn’t go out to a plumbing job and just sit there staring into space, could he? He couldn’t mindlessly band a spanner against a pipe for twenty minutes. If Sam had been a plumber then he would have been forced to focus and his mind wouldn’t slowly be unraveling, or whatever the hell was happening to him.