First line: "Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, so Eve plans a party."
In Carla Buckley's third novel, she proves that her writing prowess is real, lasting. She wowed readers with the intensity and passion of her first two novels, now in The Deepest Secret, she rises to the next level.
Eve is the mother of an XP child. No we're not talking about the off-spring of a Windows operating system, this is a rare genetic disease called xeroderma pigmentosum. Someone with this disorder doesn't have the necessary enzyme to protect against UV rays, so the person can't be exposed to the sun or any device that emits UV. Most people suffering from this disorder don't make it 20.
Tyler is Eve's XP child. He lives most of his life locked in his room with the window boarded up. He attends school via computer and can come out at night once the sun has gone down. Tyler likes to roam his neighborhood at night taking pictures.
Melissa is Tyler's sixteen-year-old sister and Eve's eldest child. She battles with being the "perfect" child, meaning she has the enzyme Tyler doesn't. Melissa is far from perfect and she's acutely aware of how lopsidedly her mother's attention focuses on her brother.
David is Eve's husband. He works in Washington D.C. while his family lives in Columbus, Ohio. He commutes back and forth on the weekends when he's able, but Eve is adamant that they can't relocate the family. It's taken too much to create the safe environment they have for Tyler in their present house. Not only adaptations to their home, but educating and helping their neighbors to change as well. She can't do that all over again and risk something happening to Tyler in the process. The long-distance family is stress enough, but add the tremendous issue of Tyler's XP and David's floundering, questioning his marriage, his life.
Most of this doesn't sound at all like a crime novel, and at this level it isn't. The intricate workings of the family and their relationships is a story in and of itself. This life alone would be enough for any human, but Buckley throws a wrench in Eve's meticulously scheduled and organized life. She throws a murder into the mix.
As Tyler roams his neighborhood at night, he uncovers the secrets that lie within the homes of those living there. He photographs the secrets and studies them. Everyone has secrets, some are just more devastating than others...
The secrets may be buried in this novel, but the suspense and mystery woven throughout keep the intensity level soaring. The urge to know the truth is overwhelming, not because the mystery and secrets exist, but because Buckley convinces us we genuinely CARE about these people. The players in this tragedy could be any of us. And Buckley's choice of the name "Eve" for her mother character reinforces that. Eve who is mother to all of us.
The Deepest Secret alternates perspectives and Buckley gives us intimate thought-snippets from all of the characters. The approach is especially effective because it prevents the reader from taking sides without all the facts. No one is right OR wrong--and yet everyone is both right AND wrong; they're only human.
Buckley writes with a flow and beauty that are uniquely hers. Her dialogue is natural; her teens are as authentic as the twenty-something actress-wannabe or the elderly widower. While the novel weighs in at over 400 pages, Buckley employs a sparseness to her writing that allows the reader to bring their own experiences, emotions and ideas to this reading adventure. Buckley beckons her reader, "come on! We're all in this together." And we go. We go willingly, excitedly. And we're changed forever.
The Deepest Secret is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780345535245) from Bantam Books. There is also an unabridged audiobook version (ISBN: 978-0804192019), narrated by Kirsten Potter, available from Random House Audio.
And as just a final note, if you're one of my fellow Northeast Ohioans, Carla will be at the Berea Public Library tomorrow night at 7 p.m. You can come out and meet the woman who wrote this astounding book.
My review kicks off the TLC Book Tour for The Deepest Secret. You can follow along with the tour and see what others bloggers are saying as well.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.