“The Secrets She Keeps” by Michael Robotham

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael RobothamLast weekend, I was switching back and forth between three books: George Saunders’ meditation on grief and letting go, Lincoln in the Bardo; Victor Frankl’s classic Holocaust memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning; and Michael Robotham’s thriller The Secrets She Keeps, which was supposed to be the lighter alternative to those two heavy tomes. However, Secrets is pretty heavy in its own right, dealing with serious themes like motherhood and mental illness.

It’s difficult to summarize the plot without getting into spoiler territory; there are some big surprises in this book, though anyone who’s read enough domestic suspense will probably be able to guess at least some of what’s coming. The book is told from the alternating points of view of two pregnant London women: Agatha, who’s single (her ex-lover serves in the Royal Navy, and broke up with her before his current deployment), and Meg, a mommy blogger with a seemingly perfect marriage, home and family. Meg’s third child is an “oops baby,” and her TV sportscaster husband is pretty grumpy about the fact that she’s pregnant. Two kids were enough for him, thanks.

Meg patronizes the grocery store where Agatha works, and in Agatha’s mind, Meg has everything she’s ever wanted: a loving husband, a big family, a beautiful house (Agatha has discovered a vantage point where she can spy on the home). Not wanting to be a cash-strapped single mum, Agatha decides she needs to try to get her ex back. Eventually, the two protagonists’ lives become entwined, and Agatha discovers a shocking secret about Meg’s husband.

Prior to this book, the only Robotham novels I’d read were Bleed For Me and Watching You, which were part of his series featuring psychiatrist Joe O’Loughlin. Both of those books showed that Robotham was a master at writing strong and believable female characters, and the stand-alone Secrets takes that even farther, as the author writes about topics like pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood from a first-person perspective. I was pretty impressed, but the author bio at the end of the novel mentions that Robotham is married and the father of three daughters. My guess is that he has some help in making sure that there are no false notes in his depictions of women’s intimate lives.

Note: The Secrets She Keeps will be published on July 11, 2017. Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for the review copy.

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