The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold
After more than twenty years of marriage, Chloe Sinclair comes home one night to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. All he has left behind is a cryptic note explaining that he’s returned to their childhood town of Redbridge, California—a place Chloe never wants to see again.
Tending to their small bookstore while trying to reach Nate, Chloe stumbles upon a notebook tucked inside his antique copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Written in a code that Nate and his sisters created as kids, the pages contain long-buried secrets from her and Nate’s past, and clues to why he went back to Redbridge after all these years. As Chloe struggles to decipher the notebook’s hidden messages, she revisits the seminal moments of their youth: the day she met the enigmatic Sinclair children, their increasingly dangerous games a magical escape from their troubled childhoods; the first time Nate kissed her, camped out on the beach like Robinson Crusoe; the elaborate plan she and Nate devised, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, to break away from from his oppressive father, and how the thwarted attempt upended their lives forever. As the reason for Nate’s absence comes to light, the truth will shatter everything Chloe knows—about her husband, his family, and herself.
"Sitting in our bookstore at night, I can hear the stories .Or not hear them so much as feel them: the neat round softness of Austen with its improbable, inevitable love affairs; the sprawl of Dickens with its meandering theads tying into coincidental knots. All the books have colors and shapes not just from the stories written but from the stories of the authors who've done the writing; from Steinbeck's realism to Murakami's cubism, a regular art museum of voices."
This book is written so beautifully I just had to share the first paragraph with you. It is a book for lovers of books. Each chapter is named after a classic story. The Chronicles of Narnia, Where the Wild Things Are, The Pit and The Pendulum and so on.
The book begins with Chloe in the antique bookshop owned by her and her husband Nate. We find out she is having an affair and Nate has became distant and secretive. He has been called back to his childhood home and leaves without telling he, only leaving a note, part of which says that, "Life is like a beautiful melody with messed up lyrics."
We then hear the story from Chloe of how when she was a child of eight years and feeling unloved by her mother spies on three children in the grounds of their large house, Nate,Grace and Cecilia, thinking they are loved more than she is and have a better life.
She makes friends with them and they introduce her to the world of books and secrets and storytelling. They live with a authoritarian father who is a pastor but also slightly unhinged. Their mother tries to make life good for her children and welcomes Chloe as long as their father never finds out, which is the first secret. The children are home schooled and secluded from the outside world and as their life progresses each will be damaged by their childhood in a way they could never have imagined.
Back to the present day and Chloe finds a book full of letters written by Nate in an old code they made up as children, as she deciphers them we discover a huge tragedy, hurt, lies and more secrets.
I loved this book. I tried to guess the ending but I was wrong. Parts of the book made me so angry I wanted to jump inside it and sort them all out and I cried at the end and it was on my mind all night after I had read the last words.
If I had one critism it would be that it was a bit slow in the middle with too much about their childhood,but that could have been because I was so desperate to find out what all the secrets were.
Elizabeth Joy Arnold is an American author from New Jersey, she has written another three books which I would love to read.
Pieces of my Sister's Life, Promise the Moon and When We Were Friends.
I give The Book of Secrets five stars
I received a kindle copy of this book from the publisher in reurn for an honest review.