Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: EVERY SECRET THING (Movie Tie-In Edition)

HARPCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins; @WmMorrowBks

AUTHOR: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 978-0-06-241140-2; paperback (June 2, 2015)
448pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $18.50 CAN

Every Secret Thing is a 2003 crime novel from bestselling author Laura Lippman (After I'm Gone).  The book was adapted into a crime film, also entitled Every Secret Thing, by director Amy J. Berg and writer Nicole Holofcener, which received a limited theatrical release in May.  William Morrow, the HarperCollins imprint, released a paperback “movie tie-in” edition of Every Secret Thing with cover art that referenced the movie poster and some of the actors featured in the film.

The novel opens seven years before the main body of the story.  It introduces two 11-year-old girls, Alice Manning and Veronica “Ronnie” Fuller.  After being banished from a neighborhood birthday party, Alice and Ronnie find a stroller with an infant inside on an unfamiliar Baltimore street.  What happens after the girls' discovery is shocking and terrible.  There is irreparable devastation to three separate families, and the incident changes lives and careers.

Seven years later, Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, now both 18, are released from juvenile facilities a.k.a. “kid prison.”  Ronnie begins her life over again, or tries to do so.  Alice aimlessly wanders various neighborhoods.  When another child disappears, the unanswered questions about the original crime return to haunt the parents, lawyers, and police involved in the disappearance and the investigation that followed.  The truth about what happened then and is happening now will be devastating to everyone, but in different ways.

It took me over two months to read Every Secret Thing.  It is a well-written novel, engaging and often absorbing.  However, Laura Lippman is a queen of the killer-ending.  The whodunit and why-they-did-it are never simple and are full of twists and turns.  To say that the endings of her books are shocking seems not to tell the whole story.  Let's just say that Lippman writes resolutions and conclusions that reward her readers for starting her books.

The reason it took me so long to finish Every Secret Thing is that Lippman pulls no punches.  Yeah, I think “pulls no punches” is a phrase that perfectly describes the way Lippman depicts relationships – familial, personal, and professional.  Some might call some of these relationships toxic, but they capture the rough edges and dark corners that define relationships as much as love and need do.  There were times when I thought about just stopping, putting aside this book and not looking back.  Laura Lippman keeps it too real... sometimes, but as a reader, I guess I wouldn't really have it any other way.

My main complaint about the book is that there are simply too many characters, even for a book that runs over 400 pages.  Sometimes, this novel feels like an ensemble drama composed entirely of bit players.  Even Alice and Ronnie occasionally seem estranged from the narrative.  This makes the novel seem disjointed as Lippman introduces and drops characters, re-inserting them in a disconcerting fashion that makes the narrative a bit awkward in places.  Still, the spine of the story – the connection of the child kidnappings – is strong and powerful stuff, because Lippman deals in strong and powerful characters, plots, settings, and angles.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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