Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Last Secret, by Mary McGarry Morris

Years ago, Mary McGarry Morris's Songs in Ordinary Time was chosen for Oprah's book club; I saw it at my mom's house and snagged it...but I never could read it. I would open it, read the first few pages, and quit. It sat on a stack by my bed for years. And then it disappeared (I think I may have sold it at a garage sale).

Recently, my friend Lynn handed me The Last Secret with a comment along the lines of "This isn't very good, but..." Because it was a lot shorter than Songs in Ordinary Time, I decided to long beyond her less than ringing endorsement and read it. She was right. The Last Secret isn't very good.

The story of a woman (Nora Hammond) under extreme stress because she has just learned her husband has had a four-year affair with one of her best friends and because a man she ran away with when she was 17 (the tawdry escapade ended with violence) has shown up at her home, The Last Secret is a book that you know can only end badly. While plenty of other books have a similar trajectory, the authors write the story with great insight or graceful writing or a character about whom we care or an unexpected ending that flattens us with its horror (Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag comes to mind as a book whose author does all of these). While Morris does provide some insight into how the stressors Nora experiences affect her emotionally and intellectually, I found I didn't care much about Nora or her family members. The ending is predictable (the "last surprise" is not surprising at all), and the writing is pedestrian.

Will I now try to find and read Songs in Ordinary Time? No way!

Favorite passages: None

No comments:

Post a Comment