Everybody has secrets; some juicier than others.
It’s hard not to compare Australian crime writer Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps (Scribner, 368 pp., ** out of four stars) with Paula Hawkins’ 2015 sensation The Girl on the Train.
Like Girl on the Train, Secrets is told in alternating chapters voiced by different women, both of whom are hiding something. One of the women wants what the other one has. And the ability to bear a child lies at the heart of the drama.
But the twists in Secrets aren’t as gripping or surprising as the ones that propelled The Girl on the Train to bestsellerdom and a Hollywood film.
Agatha is a bright but troubled woman who stocks the shelves at a grocery store where mommy blogger Meghan shops. Agatha is pregnant by a sailor she barely knows, hoping that the birth of their child will give her the family and love she craves.
To Agatha, Meghan is luminously pregnant and has everything Agatha does not: Handsome husband Jack, a TV sportscaster; two healthy children and a beautiful home. Agatha soon is stalking Meghan online and IRL.
Agatha’s imbalance arises from a painful past. She was sexually abused by a church leader as a teenager, and her rigid parents forced her to give up the child she bore. She also carries guilt over the death of her younger brother.
Meghan’s pregnancy is a surprise on several levels: The father could be Jack or his best friend Simon, a former flame to whom she was drunkenly drawn one night after a bitter fight with her husband.
Their shared pregnancies bring the women together in a plot that’s telegraphed early. Robotham’s book is well-paced and his lead characters are compelling.
But the only real shocker here is the way characters who viciously threaten each other with blackmail and ruin come together in an “all’s well…