Is there anything more toxic and harmful than a keeping a secret from your loved ones? Even the little secrets, little lies and half-truths told with the best of intentions, have a habit of coming back to haunt you and are seldom worth the effort you put in to maintain them. The truth is both easier to remember and easier to maintain than a lie, because it is, in the end, fact.
Lydia doesn’t have a small secret and she hasn’t told a simple lie. Hiding from an embarrassing incident that rocked her family when she was a teenager, everything she has told her family, her husband and children, has been a series of half-truths, a complicated story of omission orchestrated by her mother in order to cover up the consequences that Lydia’s mistake caused. Nobody in Lydia’s world knows what happened when they lived in Norfolk and she is happy for it to remain that way. Yes she has grown up under her mother’s thumb, unable to tell her no for fear of reminding her that unlike her perfect brother, she is the child who let them all down, but she is happy and she is loved. That is all she needs.
That is until the walls of Lydia’s carefully constructed world come crashing in on her. Newly appointed to chair the fundraising efforts for her children’s exclusive school, Lydia is brought face to face with someone from her past, possibly the only person who is capable of ripping apart her happy existence and destroying her happiness. The boy who was complicit in destroying her life, Sean MacAllister.
When the person she needs most to avoid commissions her husband to refurbish the kitchens in his properties, Lydia cannot get away from him or the overwhelming feeling of things slowly going out of control. Now would be the perfect time to come clean to her husband, Mark, to admit everything that has happened in her past as none of it really matters. Does it? Instead she frees, worried that to find out about her secret, to realise how he has been lied to every day of their marriage, would force him away. As she begins to form a tentative friendship with Sean’s wife, she is drawn further into a world of deceit, confessing something to her that should never have been told, something which threatens her marriage far more than anything from her childhood, something which Mark may never be able to forgive.
This is a really interesting book, drawing on some recent cases and issues caused by the ever widening reach of the internet. It is difficult to say too much without giving away the big secret but it is very topical and something which all parents of children who are swapping and sharing their lives on snapchat, tumblr, twitter et al, have to be very, very concerned by. Everything these days is dominated by social media, the opportunity for a life to be ruined far greater than it was even when the character of Lydia was a child. But it is also a telling commentary on the error of keeping secrets, the mistakes of the parents doomed to be repeated by the next generation who may have acted differently if they had known a little of the truth.
I liked the way in which this story was written, the drama and the reactions of Lydia very well observed. Her life is informed greatly by the fears of her mother who puts social appearances before seemingly anything else, those fears projected through Lydia, albeit unknowingly, to her own children. Her history gives her a fear of social media, understandably, and this is a clear frustration to her children.
The prose is vividly descriptive and flows very well, drawing the reader onward. The tone is conversational and we follow Lydia as she battles with her own conscience as well as the normal day to day demands of being a parent and business woman. You really get a sense of Lydia’s world slowly falling apart and can understand, if not condone, the choices she makes when faced with a man who is willing to listen to her and not judge compared to a husband who just doesn’t understand her point of view. Quite easy on his part as he doesn’t have all of the facts. There are some nice comedy moments with the family dog, Mabel, and she put me in mind of a particular dog I used to own who thought nothing of causing madness and mayhem wherever he went.
This is a story of cause and effect, of lies and the consequences of living them. Yes, the secret in itself is only small, but little seeds, once planted, can take root and grow into large oak trees over time. You have to question just what price you are willing to pay in order to hide your past. A compelling read and I look forward to reading more from the author.
I would like to thank Net Galley and Publishers Bookouture for an advance copy of ‘After The Lie’ by Kerry Fisher in exchange for my review.