Friday, September 13, 2013

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty

After my father and most of his friends retired from their important careers 15 years or so ago, they found themselves interested in The Soaps, and for reasons that remain unclear to me to this day, The Bold and the Beautiful was the one onto which they glommed. It struck me as high irony, given that they had spent most of their married lives teasing their wives for being chained to "their programs."

When I was a little girl I watched my mother and grandmother watch Days of Our Lives and Another World, and when I was a young mother back in my day, I was so obviously hooked on General Hospital that I was falsely accused of naming my firstborn after one of the primary characters. I come from a long line of addictive personalities, to be sure. Even so, I hadn't watched a soap opera since I went to work in 1983, and I never looked back.

A couple of years ago I took a leave of absence from work and spent every weekday for 6 weeks sitting with my father as his daytime caregiver. He didn't require much; just someone to help him perambulate, to fix and serve his meals, and generally just to be a companion to him. This meant I ate what and when he ate, adjusted my daily schedule to his, and watched the shows he enjoyed.  The Bold and the Beautiful was the one program around which I found it necessary to schedule meals and appointments and visitors who wished to stop by.

So, in the name of all that is good and decent and thoughtful, how did I find myself so addicted to The Bold and the Beautiful after just 6 weeks?  I'm two years out from being compelled to watch with my father, but my DVR is set now for 11:30 Monday-Fridays. This might not be my deepest, darkest secret, but it will have to do. We don't know each other well enough for you to know the juiciest ones yet, bless your heart.

The writing on this soap is godawful. When you condense it by judicious use of fast-forwarding there are only about 10 minutes of plot in a full week's worth of episodes. The rest of the time is filled with meaningful glances, heaving bosoms, and actors having to recite lines that are nothing like the way we talk in real life. (Seriously. How often does a woman have to refer to "my sister Hope" when she's talking to her other sister, Donna?). There is nothing redeeming about it, nothing that adds a whit to my understanding of the human condition.

And yet here I sit each afternoon after work, noshing on an afternoon snack to tide me over until supper, holding that infernal remote control in my hand, blinds pulled to prevent the neighbors from discovering my new vice, watching that day's installment before anything else gets done around here, proof that I would make a perfect lab rat for research into brainwashing.

I chose The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty to read when I saw a sales rep's wife with it under her arm during one of his sales calls to the shop. She always tags along with him on these road trips and just makes herself at home in the shop. I like her and their dog, who also accompanies them everywhere. I asked her about this one, and she said, "I'm hooked in spite of all my better judgement." Sort of her dirty little secret, it sounded like.

Thinking that I'd been on a run of books that I liked so much I was having a hard time staying surly, I brought it home, fully expecting that it would become the first book I'd read since I've resurrected this blog that would hit the Unfinished Hall of Shame The first bit of it was so full of forced, preciously funny lines that I was almost getting excited by the prospect, in fact.

But then the husband's secret is discovered, and I started putting off things like laundry and grocery buying and cooking to get back to it. It's what I will forever hereafter call the BatB effect. (Oh, God. Just shoot me now, I even know the official abbreviation for that accursed soap.) Three story lines that, for a time, run parallel to one another converge in clever ways, none of which feel forced, and all of which add new layers to the husband's secret. Aside from the shaky start, there is an unfortunate epilogue that goes off on a what-if thing that detracted from what was otherwise a perfectly satisfying ending to what had become a very entertaining read.

I have long held that there are great writers and there are great storytellers. Sometimes, but rarely, they are even the same person. Moriarty isn't a great writer, but she is a very fine storyteller. There is room on our shelves for both.

My favorite line: "Perhaps nothing was ever 'meant to be.' There was just life, and right now, and doing your best. Being a bit 'bendy.'"

Surly's Bottom Line: This is exactly the sort of book I think of when a woman asks me for a great beach/mountain/airplane read that still has something of substance to it. Pick up a half-gallon of Rocky Road Ice Cream on your way home from the bookstore as a go-with.



I  finally got around to reading Susan Hill's most recent Simon Serailler mystery, A Question of Identity which I put off during an unusually long dry spell when nothing was floating my boat. I didn't even want to start it in that mood. I'm not sure there's a writer out there today who has raised her own bar with every book in her own series as well as Hill, and hands down, this was the best of the best. Smart, smart, smart. I'm not doing a more fleshed out review because if you've read these books, you don't need my guidance, and if you have not read them I don't want you to waste a minute reading me when you could be reading her.

You must, however, start at the beginning with The Various Haunts of Men, and read them in order. If you don't, we can never have a civil conversation.

1 comment:

  1. thanks to the excellent suggestions from you and the rest of the capitol book gang, susan hill has become one of my favorite writers. smart. lovely writing. plot as well as character driven with a large dose, of sometimes almost unintellegible britisisms combined with somewhat macabre murder makes for fun crime reading. but, the hook for me is the personal narrative. the main character and the ancillary ones have very real, very interesting lives that hill weaves into the main plot of her books. and, their stories never have a neat ending at the close of whichever novel (actually, many of the crimes do not either). as in the real world, her characters' trials and tribulations ebb and flow from the mundane to the wildly romantic, ridiculous, to sad and tragic to just making you want to pull your hair out and yell at them :).

    love the susan hill "simon" series! it very much reminds me of phil rickman's merrily watkin's series. very british, very character driven, atmospheric with an out of the box premise.