Elizabeth Arnold's The Book of Secrets starts when Chloe Sinclair finds Nate, her husband of more than twenty years, gone. She find a cryptic note that explains he's gone back to their childhood town where a tragedy made them leave. She finds a notebook inside a copy of a favorite book of their youth written in a code she recognizes from those times. As she starts breaking the code, Chloe is taken down the path of their past, from the moment Chloe meets Nate and his sisters, Grace and Cecilia, the summers of reckless dares, and the unusually courtship of Nate and Chloe, to the birth of their son and the tragedy that happens to make them leave their hometown. The closer Chloe gets to the buried secrets, the more her life is spun out of control.
Right away, I was intrigued by this book. As a self-diagnosed bibliophile, any stories about fellow bookish people makes me feel a kinship. I half fell in love with Chloe's and Nate's bookstore, even though I could feel from the beginning all was not well in their lives. The connection Chloe and Nate have with books is incredible. Their first meeting is over The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which cinches the bond they have through their entire lives. I also was fascinated with the idea of using code from books that had impacted their lives.
This book is not a lighthearted romance of a husband and wife trying to find their way back to each other after some silly mix up. Nor is it a simple mystery of where Nate went. It's an emotional journey. Reading the parts about the Sinclair's father, who was more than a strict taskmaster, I felt for these children, who were not even allowed to play with their dollhouse, because it meant that they were sinful for having an imagination. Nate and Chloe's marriage is not perfect, but you find yourself rooting for them, none the less. I wouldn't say I saw the ending coming, but I will say it wasn't a shock. That being said, I don't feel like the ending was ruined for me at all; rather, I appreciated the way it was not a complete happy ever after, but a work in progress.
Bookshelf: I was hooked from the beginning and never lost interest in the story. That says a lot for me, especially lately when it doesn't seem like it takes much for me to become distracted. I'm not sure who to recommend it to, however. People who like reading stories about characters who like books, for one. I think I would also recommend it to those who know a marriage is never perfect, that even though some feel broken, they aren't always beyond repair.
*Galley was received for review purposes from netgalley.com