Book Club: The Husband's Secret

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SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know the ending don’t read any further!

I was surprised by the discussion of the “Husband’s Secret.” I really liked the book, but not everyone felt that way. Ashley, one of the great regulars, really didn’t like her writing style, throughout the night ‘poorly developed’ became a theme of what she had to say, and eventually became the running joke of the night.

The epilogue was popular to some. They liked the fact that most books leave you wondering, but this book tells you what would have happened if things had happened differently. Almost like a ‘choose your ending.’

A lot of people liked the book they just very simplistic, and not life changing. It was also unanimous that Tess should have ended up with Connor because her husband ‘was a jerk!’

When Cecilia finds the letter addressed to her from her husband, "To be opened only in the event of my death," she is tormented by the ethics of opening it. Do you agree with her ultimate decision? What would you have done?

Most people said they would have opened right away. Cecilia was very restrained. We discussed why he would have even written the letter, but it was a high stress time in his life; it was the birth of his first daughter and he had been drinking. Killing Janie weighed heavily on his conscience, it was soul destroying. What happened to his daughter could have been seen as a karmic circle.

Consider the title The Husband's Secret. Several characters in the book have secrets they hold on to that they eventually reveal. Felicity and Will share the secret of their affair to Tess; John-Paul guards his secret from Cecilia until he is forced to admit it. What are the ramifications of their secrets? Is secrecy is ever warranted and justifiable?

Most felt that it’s okay to keep secrets to spare the feelings of someone else, or if it’s something in your past that you don’t want others to know that you have come to terms with, it’s up to what you choose to reveal. It was said that if you don’t know the truth it’s as if you were tricked into a life that you wouldn’t otherwise have lived.

Tess doesn’t tell Will about sleeping with Connor. Cecilia didn’t always tell the truth either; it was on her conscience whether to turn her husband in or not. Cecilia also didn’t share with her husband that she made more money than him.

Tess has suffered her whole life from crippling social anxiety. How has this made everyday situations a challenge for her? Why has she never confronted her problem? Why doesn't she tell anyone about it?

Some felt that Tess blew her social anxiety out of proportion. They felt that there are social introverts and it is not a huge cloud that is over you life. It is something that a lot of people deal with and she was treating it as a crippling illness.

The Berlin Wall is referred to throughout the novel as Esther works on her school project. And in fact, we learn that Cecilia met John-Paul on the day the Wall finally came down. What does the Wall signify in the book.

The wall coming down symbolizes the unveiling of secrets and lives crumbling down. Ashley felt that this was ‘poorly developed.’

Grief is a major theme in the novel, and many of the characters have suffered as a result of their losses. How has grief affected Rachel? Rob? Tess? John-Paul? How do they each cope? In what ways have their lives have been irrevocably altered as a result of their grieving? Do you think people can fully stop grieving and move on with their lives?

Many people didn’t like Rachel because she was so obsessed with her own grief and no one else. They felt that she had given up on Rob when Janie was murdered, but once she was a grandmother she found it in herself to love again.

Do you think people can fully stop grieving and move on with their lives?

Yes. Some people can but some people stop dead in their tracks. They continue to live but they can’t develop. It was brought up that even Cecilia wasn’t perfect she had a persona of perfection and would talk a lot because she was so nervous.

The concept of guilt also plays a major role in the novel. Rachel feels that because of a brief flirtation with Toby Murphy she was absent when Janie died. John-Paul continues to sacrifice things that he loves, out of guilt for what he did to Janie. It seems that these characters have never been able to recover from the feelings of guilt caused by their actions. Yet at the same time, other characters in the book do not appear to feel guilt in the same way. Consider Felicity and Will. Do they have remorse for their affair? And does Tess regret her fling with Connor? What determines how guilty one feels-is it the situation, or is it determined by the individual's character?

It’s situational. Tess doesn’t and shouldn’t regret her fling with Connor; it was ‘Tit for Tat.’ Felicity wasn’t sorry, she was only sorry when it didn’t work out. Felicity was truly in love, but for Will it was ‘lust.’ It was hard to feel sorry for Felicity for what she had done, but she truly was in love with him, which must have been hard over the years watching him with Tess. Felicity loved Will but then she acted like it wasn’t a big deal.

Tess showed a lot of restraint with Connor. Tess infidelity wasn’t wrong she thought her relationship was over.  She had no other friends besides her great mother. Her mother was super understanding to her situation and in the past her mother had also had an affair.

Ethics and morals are important themes in the book. Discuss how John-Paul, Cecilia, Tess, Will, and Rachel have each done something they would not have thought possible. Have you ever acted in a way that seems entirely out of character? How did you feel? Does love cause people to do things they wouldn't normally do?

They have done scans on people who are in love and it is very similar to someone who is on drugs. It was talked about that John Paul was immature at the time, but he was 17 he wasn’t 12! It was hard to understand why Janie would have chose John Paul over Connor, when you are 16 typically you would choose who you really want to be with, but Janie wanted to be the center of attention.

Consider the notion of betrayal in this book. Which characters have betrayed someone they love? Are their acts of betrayal premeditated, or are they unplanned decisions that become regrettable actions? When one person betrays another, can that person be forgiven? Or is the damage irreparable?

Will and Felicity willfully betrayed Tess and John Paul willfully betrayed Cecilia. John Paul didn’t premeditate what happened to Janie, but he did keep it a secret for so many years. John Paul was in such a psychological state and we find out in the epilogue that he didn’t kill Janie. What had happened was amplified by her medical condition. John Paul’s mother had known what he had done because of the rosary, but he never knew.

The novel is narrated in third-person and in past tense. Given the intense focus on three women, why did the author choose to tell the story from this point of view? How does this perspective add a sense of mystery and foreboding?

That tense lends to epilogue. The men were the wrong doers but the book was written from the women’s of view.

We all agreed we thought John-Paul’s daughter was going to die. They almost acted like her losing an arm was the end of her, life but they are very fortunate.

Cecilia has been married to John-Paul for fifteen years and has three children with him. Until she opens his letter, she seems to trust him and believe him to be the wonderful husband and father she's always thought him to be. But when she discovers his terrible, sinful secret, she begins to question him.

 How well can one know one's spouse? Is it possible to ever completely know another person?

No. You don’t ever know what is going on in someone else’s head. There is so much to know and so much you can’t know. Sometimes people decide to change. You don’t have to know everything. Some people don’t care about your past and then some people don’t want to know. Some people want to know everything. Everyone compartmentalizes when in a relationship, there are certain things you are going to share and certain things you may choose to filter.

 (These questions were issued by publisher.)

Next month: Movie Discussion-The Lives of Others