Mastering the art

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By Regina May Cajucom

Serendipity Couch

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


"A good book should leave you....slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” ~ William Styron

THAT is just the perfect quote to describe my journey through “The Art of Keeping Secrets” (Patti Callahan Henry, 2008).

I have a wide circle of reading buddies, friends both actual and virtual, with whom I engage in really great conversations (again, both actual and virtual) about our current reads. This novel has actually elicited interesting remarks and knowing smiles, but the best reaction award goes to my good friend J who, immediately upon hearing the title of my current read: smiled, commented (“It’s a science…”), before asking the question, “Fiction or non-fiction?” to which we both LOL-ed.

Sometimes J and I and our circle of friends have the demeanor of “school girls”, so far from the expectedly “serious”, prim and proper stance of lady lawyers.

“The Art of Keeping Secrets” is a modern-day family drama set in South Carolina, which tells the story of a family suffering through the loss of one, the father, who died in a plane crash two years before the main story. Theirs is an ideal family: twenty years of marriage, loving spouses, two great kids, a seemingly perfect home and a great community. Still slowly picking up the pieces from that tragic death, the protagonist Annabelle’s world came crashing down (all the more) when two years after her husband Knox’s death the plane wreckage was finally found, with the body not just of Knox, but of an unknown woman with him on the plane. Suddenly she started doubting everything she believed and everything she cherished in her twenty years of idyllic marriage and family life.

How doubly tragic is that? I actually started this novel in January but switched to my safe (but sometimes equally heartbreaking) YA reads because I found it quite dragging at the beginning. But when I came back to reading it I became an instant Patti Callahan Henry fan, because of her beautiful descriptions of scenery (especially of the seashores), and vivid depiction of characters – so vivid you can feel their heartbreak as your own.

One’s journey through this novel is a journey through the lives and emotions of several people, and there are times when I had to put down the book because it seems everything is happening all at once and I just had to catch my breath. It is no Dan Brown or John Grisham with a car chase and such, but it is just as exhausting – even more, because some of the scenes and dialogues (and thoughts!) are so painful and heartrending.

The ending is not as dramatic as it should be, and I have a feeling that just like the characters in the novel, the author seems to have mastered her own art of keeping secrets. I have a feeling she has a grander ending she only keeps to herself, acceptable only in an “alternate universe”.

The journey was more interesting than the destination, but I am glad to have "met" this gifted author and will be reading more of her novels soon. If you are looking for a poignant read that will get you through a cozy, lazy rainy afternoon, this is a good choice. (serendipity.couch@gmail.com/ www.serendipitycouch.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 03, 2014.

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