Last year I read Midwives and enjoyed it so much more then I thought I would. Sometimes I reckon you read books that you love and then others, you read authors that you love. It doesn’t matter what the story is because you know just from who the author is, that it’s going to be good.
Chris Bohjalian falls into this category. I don’t care what he writes about, I just know I’ll end up enjoying it.
Secrets of Eden is told from four different narratives. Each narrator builds and reflects on how you perceive the other characters. The focus of the story is not the mystery – what did happen to the Heyward’s that night – did Alice know her husband was going to kill her as Stephen Drew seems to think? It is by far more character based, as I think most of Bohjalian’s books are.
The main theme of the book is domestic abuse, but not just the victims – but those who have to live with it. Katie Heyward is the fifteen year old daughter left behind and is also one of the narrators in the novel. Heather Laurent is an author who believes in angels, but she and her sister also lived through the same experience – her parent’s domestic abuse and the same tragic murder-suicide fate. She is drawn to the small town because of her own experiences.
I found this book very hard to put down. It’s a fast-reading-slow-book and that’s the best way I can think of describing it. It isn’t that you need to read it to find out what happens in the end. It has this slow, but constant rippling effect where the pages just keep turning. I wanted to read more about the narrators. I wanted to get to know them. Each part feels complete and moves very easily onto the next narrator. I found myself forgetting the time whilst reading this book – I just kept turning the pages and becoming completely enveloped into the story.
It is very well written and very easy to imagine. Bohjalian has a very sensitive voice and he is a good storyteller. It is quite a small story with hidden subtleties that give his characters depth and life.
However I did feel that Katie’s voice was a bit forced. He obviously tried very hard to write using a teenager’s vocabulary but I get the feeling he is much more comfortable writing from an adult’s point of view. Whilst I can imagine that she was probably quite mature for her age, considering what happened to her, I didn’t quite find her narration as believable as all the others.
The mystery itself doesn’t pull any surprises or pack and punches. In a way I wish Bohjalian hadn’t made such an issue of it towards the end and concentrated more on the moral questions it brings up for the characters involved.
Overall, I enjoyed every minute of this book and there was not a point when I thought it became slow or tiresome. If you’re looking for a thrilling mystery though, this isn’t going to be it. If you just want to wrap yourself up with a good, well written book though… Secrets of Eden is a good choice.