The Secret Sister: Brenda Novak: A Starred Review
Imagine living in a world where your opinions and thoughts were programmed and had to match that of your mother’s. Imagine living in a house where your whereabouts, your life and your daily undertakings were controlled, orchestrated and designed to live up to the standards of someone else. Imagine not measuring up! What happens when everything in your world centers on the opinion, thoughts and desires of someone else who feels that only her opinion matters, your choices are beneath her and you resulting in conflicts that may never be resolved? A mother who feels that her children will never measure up to what she hoped they would be? A mother who was jealous of her own daughter and the attention her father gave her. Maisey returns to her hometown after a bitter divorce and the loss of her child. Having difficulty dealing with her daily life, placing her career as a children’s author on hold, she returns to Fairham when her brother, Keith calls her asking for her help. Keith is bipolar and uses drugs to escape the world, his mother’s wrath, criticism and life. Dealing with him will prove more than just difficult but confrontational at times. But, he is just one stumbling block that Maisey encounters before meeting with her staunch, stoic and hardnosed mother, Josephine. This is a book about secrets, betrayals, a loveless childhood, two children who had to withstand the brutal punishments meted out by their mother and the same but in a different way as adults.
Before Maisey returns home she decided to not remain in her childhood home but to live in one of the rundown cottages in Smuggler’s Cove. This is where things heat up and get really interesting as author Brenda Novak expertly weaves Maisey’s past into the present. Rafe Romero is a young man that she had a physical encounter with as a teen. Now in the present for some reason she cannot resist his charm and one night will tell it all.
Maisey and Rafe seem to have an instant connection and his daughter Laney adds to the mix. A young child who is blind yet never falters or complains about her lack of sight, she is endearing, smart and can sense that Maisey might just be what her father needs. But, Josephine Lazarow her mother is coldhearted, difficult and when learning that she and Rafe might be more than friends the threats come through loud and clear. When Maisey learns about a mysterious box that Rafe finds in the wall of one of the bungalows an investigation of a different sort ensues and a family secret comes to light. The Secret Sister: A box filled with pictures triggers what might cause the downfall of her family as she learns about a young girl named Annabelle and has to figure out what really happened to her. Did she have a sister? What happened to her? Did someone really push her and cause her to fall? Was it really an accident? Small towns have lots of people who enjoy talking about others and the town of Fairham, North Carolina provides the setting and the gossip. After the death of her father, Malcolm, Maisey had no one to be her champion and her relationship with her mother became tighter than a the tautness of a tightrope. Finding a young man to marry and not meeting her mother’s standards she moved to New York hoping to find some happiness. But, not everything turns out as happily ever after and after Jack cheated on her she decided to make a clean break but will he let her go? With the revelation about her sister revealed, approaching her brother Keith what happens is a hailstorm worthy of any severe downpour as Keith erupts and her mother makes her threats about her relationship with Rafe. With the evidence that she finds in the box, talking with her friend Dinah, and Ranger Phillips who is close to someone named Gretchen we learn that blackmail was involved, money changed hands and there is much more to the story than Maisey has learned. But, where will she get the answers? Why didn’t they find her sister’s body? Who is covering up the truth and why?
As Rafe and Maisey begin to learn more about what happened to her sister, Josephine becomes more irate and what she does next will change the dynamics of their relationship even more. Author Brenda Novak brilliantly teaches the reader what happens when someone is too controlling, has no empathy for anyone else and presents a front or façade that makes you wonder if she is afraid to show emotions for fear of getting hurt. Barriers are set up, walls are in place and Maisey is determined to learn the truth about her sister’s death at all costs even if it means getting fired from her job and losing Smuggler’s Cove as a safe haven.
Some secrets might just turn out not the way you expect and some answers might surprise you. Author Brenda Novak brings to light what happens when lies are told, a young child’s life changes, deaths were fabricated and a family is torn apart. An ending that will bring tears to your eyes and a mother who just might learn the true meaning of love and family if she opens her eyes and sees what is right in front of her.
Can Josephine become the mother she should have been? Can the starling truth about Annabelle bring them closer together? Will Keith ever get out from under her thumb and become his own person? Will Maisey realize that Laney and Rafe are her future or will she run back to Manhattan? A heartfelt gripping story that engages the reader from start to finish as author Brenda Novak neatly weaves all of the threads together as Maisey needs to find the truth and will stop at nothing at all costs until she does. She is persistent, tenacious, obstinate and definitely a match for Josephine. Read The Secret Sister and learn the hidden truth. Sometimes when things change the world you live in might be brighter!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews