If you've had a look at the list of blogs/podcasts that I follow, you'll see that one of the list is Books on the Nightstand (which is my absolute favourite!). BOTNS is run by Ann and Michael, who both work for Random House, and create a weekly podcast to talk about books they'd like to recommend, new books to watch out for and back catalogue books that they've just loved so much they want to share them with people. This year, they are also organising the BOTNS retreat, which will be a gathering of podcast listeners, blog followers and BOTNS-favourite authors. Unfortunately, I won't be making it to the retreat, but I wanted to read work from some of the authors who are going to attend.
The first book I picked up was Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian - the story of a murder-suicide that takes place in Vermont. I found this story absolutely compelling. The narrator changes several times, to allow us to experience different points of view in the story, and through the whole tale there's a creeping sense of dread, and an undercurrent of things just not being quite right...
Alice Hayward is a battered wife. This isn't really a secret in her town, and is known by people including her fifteen year old daughter, Katie; her best friend Ginny, and her pastor, Stephen Drew. Alice decides to get baptised, and after it's complete, she goes about her day like any other Sunday, little realising that within 12 hours, her husband will have strangled her, and then shot himself in the head. Although as time passes in the town, rumours and theories start to spread that the circumstances may not be as clear cut as originally thought.
The story starts off being told by Reverend Stephen Drew, the man who baptises Alice on the day of her death. The narrative role switches between several different characters, allowing an insight into how the deaths of Alice and her husband George have rippled out to affect other people, not only their own daughter but people that they had never even known. As the pastor states early on however;
“Believe no one. Trust no one. Assume all of our stories are suspect.”
This is a powerful statement to make in the opening chapters of the book, but I liked it, and it stayed with me throughout. As the tale winds on through the aftermath of Alice and George's death, we start to realise that this earlier statement is, and was very significant to the tone of the entire tale and something that should be kept in mind, not only in terms of the story but in terms of real life. People can hide behind half truths, or lie by omission, and no one can ever really be sure they're being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I feel that I haven't went too in-depth into the actual ins and outs of the story, but I feel that if I write much more it could possibly ruin the story - some books just have to be read!
I wanted to blog my review for this book as i finished it weeks ago, I've read several books in the meantime, and I'm still thinking about this! I have went in search of other works by Chris Bohjalian (Midwives will be my next read from him), and I'll be listening eagerly to the reports from the BOTNS retreat to learn about possible upcoming works!
This book gets a solid four stars from me, and I highly recommend you check it out (along with Books on the Nightstand!)