Sworn Secret

sworn secretSworn Secret 
by Amanda Jennings
Published by Witness Impulse (Harper Collins)
385 pages
Genre: literature; general fiction; 
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4.5 / 5

Do not begin reading this book unless you have time to finish it, because you will not want to put it down. At all.

The Thorne family has spent the previous year reeling – sadly not really healing – from the death of oldest daughter Anna, who fell from the roof of the school. Some say she committed suicide, others say it was an accident. Jon Thorne believes his daughter suffered an accident, and younger daughter Lizzie agrees. Kate is convinced something happened to her daughter and is determined to blame everyone, even though she might agree – deep down – that it was a terrible accident.

Anna was the light in the Thorne home, beloved by parents and sister. But Anna, as we come to discover, concealed many secrets about herself, none of them savory, none of them what the family thought they knew about her.

As Kate and Jon attempt to maintain their marriage in the face of their grief, Lizzie finds herself drawn to Haydn, the boy Anna was dating when she died. Her parents may be stuck in neutral, but Lizzie wants to live again.

This is an excruciatingly painful book to read because the Thornes’ grief is so crushing. On top of that, Jon must deal with an Alzheimer’s riddled father, a distant and disapproving mother, and a rogue brother.

But far more pressing is his family, specifically his wife.

Oh, you will hate Kate. In fact, I found myself saying out loud, “I hate you,” more than once while reading. She is all but loathsome. Yes, we understand her grief. Absolutely. But she wears it like a badge of honor, as if determined to out-sad everyone around her. Jon points this out to her at one point, and she dismisses it, much like she dismisses him and Lizzie.

Her youngest daughter’s need to connect with someone who understands her drives her to a romance no one approves of, and one that quickly becomes very serious. But Lizzie needs comfort. She needs someone to be strong for her, and if it’s Haydn, then she makes no apologies.

The events leading to Anna’s death will not surprise you. From about the third page of the book, I knew what one of Anna’s secrets was, and I suspected others. But this isn’t a mystery. I know the blurb calls it a “domestic thriller,” but the “mystery” here is whether or not this family will survive together. Anna’s secrets are transparent to us from the start, although what actually happened when she died is shrouded in questions.

Like I said, though, the Thorne family’s ability to work their way through their grief is the heart of this novel. Can Kate get out of her own way and see that her husband and daughter need her? Can Jon be strong enough for all of them? Can he stabilize his marriage? Can he help Lizzie?

I loved this book on so many levels, including how complicated Kate was. Jennings treats her characters with respect, and if Anna’s secret life was too hidden, then we can forgive the lapse. (You would think that Lizzie would know more than she does, but no.) Kate, Jon, and Lizzie are wonderfully drawn, and their stories feel real and unforced. In fact, my biggest complaint is the cover. What in the world? It’s horrid. Witness Impulse, please correct that.

Read this one. Seriously. Read it.

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Filed under fiction, literature, really really GOOD literature!

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