“The Secret Keeper”, by Kate Morton

Greetings, from the edge of the Path of Totality! I love that term. It’s so geeky that it’s cool. But now that eclipse fever is behind us, let’s talk books.

Is it really August? Yes! And I have two freshly minted high school freshmen to prove it. Since it’s August, it’s time to talk about the “Kind of Like a Book Club” book, Kate Morton’s “The Secret Keeper.”

“The Secret Keeper” is a really well-written and cleverly structured mystery that spans a couple of generations in Great Britain. As 92-year-old Dorothy lays dying in a hospital, her daughter, Laurel, recalls a shocking incident she witnessed as a teenager. There are some unanswered questions about that incident, and the mystery is further compounded by things Dorothy says as medication and sickness cause her to confuse the past with the present.

Laurel’s quest to uncover the truth is also a journey back to WWII London and a time in her mother’s life when she was young and reckless. Laurel uncovers the truth mostly from journals and letters that had been preserved. But the reader gets much more detail than this as the author switches her narration back and forth between 1941 and 2011. Ms. Morton really makes London during the blitz come alive. She also has a real talent for developing very complex characters, especially young people who are grappling with defining who they want to be as adults. And she skillfully unfolded a very well thought out mystery. It was a very satisfying read and there will definitely be more Kate Morton in my future!

**** Spoilers beyond this point ****

So did you figure it out? The identity switch was one of the scenarios I considered, but then ruled out. The pictures tripped me up. Also, young Dorothy’s propensity for make believe was consistent with having a daughter who made a living from make believe – I thought she had passed along that character trait. Plus, living in the country by a stream was one of Dorothy’s dream scenarios for her life, so that threw me off, too. However, I was having a hard time reconciling the young, very self-absorbed Dorothy with the very loving mother of five, so that should have been a red flag.

Other random thoughts:

One of the other scenarios I considered was that Vivien and Jimmy both survived and ran off together. Even though they didn’t end up together, I’m glad they survived and eventually found love again.

How did Vivien pull off bequeathing her house to Jimmy’s dad?

How did both Jimmy and Henry find Vivien at Greeacres?

Kate Morton knows how to write appealing male characters.

So, what did everyone else think?

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18 thoughts on ““The Secret Keeper”, by Kate Morton

  1. Thank you for this and for the Liane Moriarty title–both are going on my library list today! I just finished an oldie but a goodie that I found on my bookshelf and wanted to recommend: “Smoke” by Donald Westlake. Crime novels are not my typical choice, this one is such a fun read that I was laughing out loud and mentally casting the movie version. The author’s voice reminds me of Elmore Leonard; he’s an excellent writer with a gift for comic dialogue and characters that you root for even when they are on the wrong side of the law (and the crimes are not violent or disturbing). I hope you check it out and enjoy it as much as I did.

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    • I’m going to add Smoke, or at least some other Donald Westlake books, to my reading list, too. I can’t seem to find Smoke as an audio book which greatly decreases the chance I’ll be able to make my way through it before the year 2045.

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    • The only way I can fit reading into my life is via audiobook — read + weed the garden, read + drive kids places, read + make dinner, read + go for a long walk — you get the idea. I did enjoy the book, but it seemed to be taking forever to get through it. As I rounded the corner to the home stretch, I found myself slightly distracted by the thought that the last few book recommendations from Michelle have been 5,000 pagers that I literally yelled “Get out!” out loud while making dinner when the big plot twist unveiled itself. I was soooooo not expecting that!

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  2. Hi Michelle! What are the next few books on your list so I can see if I can find them?

    George

    P.S. Congrats on high school freshmen! Wow, huh? Tyler is already a senior this year at ND and Olivia is a high school senior. Molly and I won’t know what to do when she graduates…. ☹

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  3. You’ve sold me….again! I need to read more smart fiction, and I like how you write about and describe the plot and characters. (Didn’t read the spoilers–thanks for the alert!) Thanks for always writing thoughtful recommendations—and for being candid, like with The Secret Wife!

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  4. SPOILER ALERT: Thanks for recommending this. I did not see that ending coming, but it made me feel so much better about Dorothy’s action with Henry. If I’m remembering correctly, he found her because of the picture of her winning produce/pie/something like that in the local paper . . . . Looking forward to the October read! (I graduated from ND in ’86 — Go Irish!)

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  5. Finally finished it! And for anyone struggling to get there, it picks up during the last 100 pages! I had considered the ending too, but couldn’t quite fit the pieces together. Loved how everything pulled together. Beautiful story. What’s next?!!!

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      • I had never read anything by this author before and really enjoyed it. It was a satisfying mystery plus I am always intrigued by how events in the past influence the future especially in ways we may not fully understand. Always interesting to consider how keeping secrets impacts the lives of people. Thanks for recommending this book!

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