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The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty

Published: 2013-07-30
Hardcover : 416 pages
325 members reading this now
838 clubs reading this now
321 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 198 of 215 members
THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER FROM THE AUTHOR OF BIG LITTLE LIES.

One of the Best Books of the Year—Entertainment Weekly
One of the Top Ten Books of the Year—People magazine

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

My darling Cecilia, if ...

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Introduction

THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER FROM THE AUTHOR OF BIG LITTLE LIES.

One of the Best Books of the Year—Entertainment Weekly
One of the Top Ten Books of the Year—People magazine

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died...

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive...

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: Liane Moriary is probably doomed to be forever labeled a writer of “chick lit.” But despite its dopey name, her new novel, The Husband’s Secret, is better described as a comedy of manners and one with a serious undertone. As in her previous books, most successfully What Alice Forgot, Moriarty here wittily and observantly chronicles the life of middle aged, middle class Australian women, suburbanites who grapple with prosaic issues like marital fidelity and torturous ones like moral guilt and responsibility. You can’t help but laugh along with the small observations--“And there was poor little Rob, a teenage boy clumsily trying to make everything right, all false smiles and cheery lies. No wonder he became a real estate agent.” But it’s the big ones--Can good people do very, very bad things, and what, exactly, are we responsible for, and for how long?--that will make you think. This is a deceptively rich novel that transcends its era and place at the same time that it celebrates same. --Sara Nelson

Excerpt

Poor, poor Pandora. Zeus sends her off to marry Epimetheus, a not especially bright man she’s never even met, along with a mysterious covered jar. Nobody tells Pandora a word about the jar. Nobody tells her not to open the jar. Naturally, she opens the jar. What else has she got to do? How was she to know that all those dreadful ills would go whooshing out to plague mankind for ever more, and that the only thing left in the jar would be hope? Why wasn’t there a warning label? And then, everyone’s like, Oh, Pandora. Where’s your willpower? You were told not to open that box, you snoopy girl, you typical woman with your insatiable curiosity, now look what you’ve gone and done. When for one thing it was a jar, not a box, and for another, how many times does she have to say it, nobody said a word about not opening it! ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. When Cecilia finds the letter addressed to her from her husband, “To be opened only in the event of my death,” she is tormented by the ethics of opening it. Do you agree with her ultimate decision? What would you have done?

2. Consider the title The Husband’s Secret. Several characters in the book have secrets they hold on to that they eventually reveal. Felicity and Will share the secret of their affair to Tess; John-Paul guards his secret from Cecilia until he is forced to admit it. What are the ramifications of their secrets? Is secrecy is ever warranted and justifiable?

3. Tess has suffered her whole life from crippling social anxiety. How has this made everyday situations a challenge for her? Why has she never confronted her problem? Why doesn’t she tell anyone about it?

4. The Berlin Wall is referred to throughout the novel as Esther works on her school project. And in fact, we learn that Cecilia met John-Paul on the day the Wall finally came down. What does the Wall signify in the book?

5. Grief is a major theme in the novel, and many of the characters have suffered as a result of their losses. How has grief affected Rachel? Rob? Tess? John-Paul? How do they each cope? In what ways have their lives have been irrevocably altered as a result of their grieving? Do you think people can fully stop grieving and move on with their lives?

6. The concept of guilt also plays a major role in the novel. Rachel feels that because of a brief flirtation with Toby Murphy she was absent when Janie died. John-Paul continues to sacrifice things that he loves, out of guilt for what he did to Janie. It seems that these characters have never been able to recover from the feelings of guilt caused by their actions. Yet at the same time, other characters in the book do not appear to feel guilt in the same way. Consider Felicity and Will. Do they have remorse for their affair? And does Tess regret her fling with Connor? What determines how guilty one feels—is it the situation, or is it determined by the individual’s character?

7. Tess and Felicity have a history of making snide comments about other people. Tess realizes this only once she is out of the comfort zone she’s shared with Felicity for so many years. How has such negative energy affected her relationships with others? Do you think she and Felicity are actually cruel, or is there another reason for their unkind behavior?

8. Ethics and morals are important themes in the book. Discuss how John-Paul, Cecilia, Tess, Will, and Rachel have each done something they would not have thought possible. Have you ever acted in a way that seems entirely out of character? How did you feel? Does love cause people to do things they wouldn’t normally do?

9. Consider the notion of betrayal in this book. Which characters have betrayed someone they love? Are their acts of betrayal premeditated, or are they unplanned decisions that become regrettable actions? When one person betrays another, can that person be forgiven? Or is the damage irreparable?

10. The novel is narrated in third-person and in past tense. Given the intense focus on three women, why did the author choose to tell the story from this point of view? How does this perspective add a sense of mystery and foreboding?

11. Cecilia has been married to John-Paul for fifteen years and has three children with him. Until she opens his letter, she seems to trust him and believe him to be the wonderful husband and father she’s always thought him to be. But when she discovers his terrible, sinful secret, she begins to question him. How well can one know one’s spouse? Is it possible to ever completely know another person?

Suggested by Members

What did you think about the fact that John-Paul's mother was aware of his secret? How do you think you would handle this type of information?
by curlytop (see profile) 02/10/17

What would you do in this same situation?
by smokey1 (see profile) 05/22/15

The publisher has provided questions for discussion on their web site.
What does the inclusion of an epilog at the end do to your concept of what happened in the book?
by hollidaypark (see profile) 09/14/14

Was the price for not revealing his secret too high?
Could you remain in the town if you were the husband?
by ludubinski (see profile) 08/12/14

Domino effect of revealing secrets
Consequences to self for keeping secrets
by Neekababy (see profile) 06/28/14

What would you do to protect a loved one?
Do you have regrets?
Could you keep a secret ( a real one)?
by katstews (see profile) 03/14/14

Would you have opened the envelope?
How does the Berlin Wall tie into the story?
Do you believe in karma?
by Alison8641 (see profile) 03/13/14

Guilt and Punishment
by LauraORourke (see profile) 01/31/14

Do you ever think of decisions in your life, that if they had occurred differently would have lead you to a different place?
by lizblair (see profile) 01/13/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dear Reader,

The Loch Ness Monster, a stolen lullaby and a foolish murderer were the inspiration for my latest novel,

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET.

Two years ago I stumbled upon a fascinating article about real life deathbed confessions. I learned about Christian Spurling, who confessed on his deathbed to faking a notorious photo of the Loch Ness Monster. There was a famous songwriter who was dying of cancer and wrote a letter admitting, after years of adamant denials, that she had plagiarized a lullaby melody. Then there was the hapless man who, after suffering a stroke, confessed he’d killed his neighbour thirty years earlier. The only problem was that he didn’t end up dying. After he was released from hospital he went straight to jail.

The article, particularly the story of the man who didn’t die, got me thinking. I was intrigued by that overwhelming desire to share your darkest secret.

That’s when I came up with the story of a woman who finds a letter from her husband. It says: For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick. To be opened only in the event of my death. Her husband is very much alive. Should she open it? Would YOU open it?

Although THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is very much character-driven, it’s probably the most suspenseful of all my novels. My fingers are very tightly crossed that you will enjoy it!

With warmest wishes,

Signature

Liane Moriarty

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