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- Publié sur Amazon.com
I didn't find out that this book was a sequel to "Before the Storm" until I finished it and was flipping through the ads at the back. I open with that, because had I known that, and/or had I read the first book, my feelings about "Secrets She Left Behind" might be different.
Maybe then I might have understood more about why the characters took the actions they did, or if not, maybe I would have been more emotionally invested in them so that it didn't matter as much. This book is very soap opera like, but instead of having each plot point drawn out FAR too long (as in the soap operas I used to watch) major things like arson, rampant infidelity, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc just get skimmed over. It's like the author drops them into the plot to shake it up but then never lets us know why the characters do these things. (Again, had I read the first book, things may have been explained there, but at some point, this book needs to be strong enough to stand on its own.)
Maggie, one of the main characters, is released from prison in the beginning of the book. She served 12 months for arson, after setting (although not lighting) a fire in which several people died. The deepest explanation I have for why she did this is that her married boyfriend was a firefighter and she wanted him to succeed. The reader is not shown through any thoughts or flashbacks what type of relationship this was that led her to these actions. We are just told over and over that now she is sorry and now she is a good person. With a pretty healthy ego, I might add. When confronted by an angry group of adults during her community service, she thinks: "I brought out the mean side in them. How many of them knew me personally? Some did, I was sure of it. Some were probably the parents of my former friends - my friends before I flipped out. They'd probably wanted their kids to hang out with me back then, hoping a little of me would rub off on their own children. Now they thought I was crazy or dangerous. Maybe both." Keep in mind that she served one year for a fire that killed and maimed children and adults.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this book was the total lack of foreshadowing. Instead of carefully crafting a subtle arc of clues for a major reveal, at one point of the characters drops a bombshell that gives away the game for the reader, but then we are supposed to believe that Maggie doesn't notice. It's a spoken line that in the real world would have caused her to take a step back and she certainly would have started asking some serious questions, but the author expects us to believe that she just let the bombshell go by, and maybe, I don't know, saw something shiny. That's just lazy writing, and even worse, lazy editing.
I think there might have been one real story here. One about what led a young girl to commit arson and/or how she deals with her life after prison, or maybe the story of a boy disfigured by that arson and his attempts to rebuild his life, or one about the mothers of either the girl or boy and how they deal with their children in those situations. But ALL of these stories are here, plus about five others. It's too much, and as a result, there's too little. Too little character development, too little craftsmanship, too few insights. Had the author kept a focus - maybe there would have been less soap opera and more moments like this:
"Anyone could have been holding her at that moment, and she would have seemed just a peaceful. But it wasn't just anyone. It was me. And I felt strangely lucky to be able to hold her in my arms that way. She'd felt light that last time I'd held her here in her room. Now she seemed to become lighter by the second, and it took me a moment to understand the reason: circled by my arms, she was already turning to dust."
In this one moment, the author stops moving the characters around, and instead, keeps them still. And by doing so, finally moves the reader.