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Review: Secret Keepers

August 19, 2012

When 72 year old Emma Handley’s husband dies unexpectedly, it turns her world upside down.  Not only will she miss the trip of a lifetime that she’d been dreaming of for years but the care of their mentally ill son, Bobby, will fall completely on her.  Emma’s son-in-law steps in and tries to take charge but Emma will have none of it.

Emma and her daughter, Dora, aren’t really close.  Dora was on the wild side as a child and has married a controlling man.  When Jake, her old flame, comes to town and reconnects with her mother and her brother, Dora wonders how her life has turned out this way.

It’s really hard to explain the storyline of Secret Keepers, by Mindy Friddle, but it’s not hard to follow when you read the book.  The Handleys are an old Southern family, living in a small South Carolina town.  Their world seems neat and orderly, but Harold’s death and Jake’s return shake things up quite a bit.  Jake opens a landscaping business and finds some heirloom plants on the grounds of the Handley’s old family home.   They seem to affect people in meaningful ways and soon the town is buzzing about the plants.

The Southern setting is perfect – I suspect it’s based on a town near me.   Friddle gets a small Southern town just right with its quirky characters, outlandish churches, and gossip.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters.  They all have their secrets and some are defined by them.  They’re just quirky enough to be interesting.  Told from the third person point of view with a touch of humor, the story is told in the present day with flashbacks to the past to fill readers in on characters’ backgrounds.

I enjoyed Secret Keepers quite a bit but I didn’t love it.  I was fully engaged with the book while I was reading it but didn’t feel an urgent need to pick it up when I wasn’t.  It’s good, solid Southern fiction and will delight most readers.

Review copy provided by Picador.   I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2012 6:59 am

    I do love well written characters and I would like to read about these 🙂

  2. August 19, 2012 8:23 am

    Sounds like an interesting story!!

  3. August 19, 2012 9:31 am

    I love the cover!

  4. August 19, 2012 10:17 am

    Almost always when you review Southern fiction, I notice you say “the best part was the characters.” I think that’s probably true with Southern fiction, and a great bonus!

  5. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    August 19, 2012 10:30 am

    You know I love Southern Fiction! Even though you didn’t LOVE it, it still sounds like you enjoyed it overall and the quirky characters are something I embrace!! Will be looking for this one in my library!

  6. August 19, 2012 11:33 am

    I love Southern Fiction! Sounds good, and I love the cover!

  7. August 19, 2012 12:08 pm

    It sounds like good Southern fiction and I like the cover too.

  8. Beth Hoffman permalink
    August 19, 2012 12:10 pm

    I really like character-driven fiction, and this sounds like a fun read.

  9. August 19, 2012 12:20 pm

    I’d like the Southern setting and the characters. Excellent review, Kathy! As usual, I admire your clear writing and honesty.

  10. August 19, 2012 12:34 pm

    I’m not that familiar with Southern fiction but think I would enjoy this book.

  11. August 19, 2012 2:06 pm

    I really like the cover = it looks like a packet of garden seeds…. clever!

  12. Patty permalink
    August 19, 2012 3:45 pm

    It sounds like one of those fun to read Southern books that you enjoy but quickly forget!

  13. August 19, 2012 4:47 pm

    Sounds like a good light read for a relaxing day.

  14. August 19, 2012 5:24 pm

    I do love some good southern fiction from time to time. I love those kind of quirky characters. I might have to pick up a copy of this one!

  15. August 20, 2012 11:41 am

    I have grown a real taste for Southern Literature, and I think this book would really suit me. It sounds excellent, and like one of those books that you can instantly recognize as Southern. I am intrigued that you felt as if this was one that was set close to you. It must have felt very familiar!

  16. August 20, 2012 1:45 pm

    I’ll have to keep this one in mind.

  17. August 21, 2012 3:36 pm

    Oooh, more Southern fiction to add to my bookcase! Sounds like an interesting story, and I love family dynamics.

  18. August 21, 2012 4:25 pm

    Sounds like a pleasant Southern-fried read.

  19. August 22, 2012 4:00 pm

    I love Southern comfort novels, especially when the author gets the setting just right. I’ll keep this one in mind.

  20. August 24, 2012 8:21 am

    I read this a couple of years ago and remember liking it so I went back to read my review. ” I really liked the atmospheric story of people who thought life may have passed them by.”
    I ended up enjoying it quite a bit!

  21. August 25, 2012 2:56 pm

    You are always providing such great southern reads! This one looks really good to me.

  22. bookingmama permalink
    August 26, 2012 11:12 am

    I’ve had this one on my shelves forever and I really need to read it!

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