1 review

Best Kept Secret: A Novel
by Amy Hatvany

Published: 2011-06-07
Paperback : 352 pages
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Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.

Her drinking snuck up on her - as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet ...
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Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.

Her drinking snuck up on her - as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie. 

It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist.  But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control.  Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.               

Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop.  But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle - even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again.  And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store.  It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….

Heartbreaking, haunting, and ultimately life-affirming, Best Kept Secret is more than just the story of Cadence—it’s a story of how the secrets we hold closest are the ones that can most tear us apart.


Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Being drunk in front of your child is right up there on the Big Bad No-no List of Motherhood. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew it with every glass, every swallow, every empty bottle thrown into the recycle bin. I hated drinking. I hated it…and I couldn’t stop. The anesthetic effect of alcohol ran thick in my blood; the Great Barrier Reef built between me and my feelings. I watched myself do it in an out-of-body experience: Oh, isn’t this interesting? Look at me, the sloppy drunk. It snuck up on me, every time. It took me by surprise. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Do you think the pressures that moms feel today are different from those that previous generations of mothers have faced? How do the challenges of balancing work and family fit in? Discuss to what extent this was illustrated in the novel.
2. Cadence’s doctor and Andi both use the phrase “different behaviors, same compulsion” when discussing addiction and recovery. What do they mean when they say this? Can you think of other addictive behaviors that women adopt in an effort to “escape”?
3. Cadence says that her mother, Sharon, never discussed the end of her relationships with the men she dated. Do you think this had an effect on Cadence? What was your opinion of how Sharon reacted when Cadence called her father?
4. Did you agree with Martin’s decision to file for custody? In your opinion, what were his motivations for doing this?
5. Alice is one of the novel’s most enigmatic characters. Did your opinion of her change from the novel’s beginning to its end?
6. Forgiveness is an important theme in this novel. Discuss instances within the narrative where it is offered freely, and those instances where it is withheld. Is forgiveness something that should always be available to people who are repentant?
7. Cadence’s grandmother is arguably one of the most important characters in the novel, and yet we never see her or know her, beyond secondhand descriptions. How did your opinions of both Sharon and Cadence shift once you knew more about her?
8. Did this novel change the way you think about (or talk about) your own drinking habits, or those of your friends? Did it change any of your preconceptions about addiction and addicts?
9. Best Kept Secret is about one woman’s mistake that she can’t undo. Is there a decision or choice that you have made in your life that you regret? Were you able to rectify it?
10. The truth of Cadence’s grandmother’s alcoholism is a long and closely guarded family secret. Are there any family secrets that you only learned about as an adult?
11. Did the ending surprise you? Who do you think should have received custody of Charlie?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Amy Hatvany:

“BEST KEPT SECRET tells the story of Cadence Sutton, a woman who (after a messy divorce) slowly spirals into alcoholism and not only has to come to terms with her personal failings, she also must fight to regain custody of her young son. At a deeper level, it’s about the pressure women face in our society – whether or not they are mothers – to do everything “perfectly,” and what happens to us (mentally, emotionally, and physically) when we can’t. Ultimately, it is an honest exploration of the space where addiction and motherhood intersect, and of how no matter the mistakes you’ve made, there is always hope.”

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "very informative"by Merhousel (see profile) 03/21/12

Learned quite a bit about alcoholism. Good read, liked cadence a lot.

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