Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was recommended to me after I had read Ann Leary's "The Good House" a little while back, and I am so glad that I got the chance to know about this novel and to read it. "Best Kept Secret" is the story of Cadence (what a cool name!), a woman whose marriage to workaholic Martin has ended in divorce, leaving her to raise her young son Charlie alone. Having given up her job at a major newspaper in order to stay home and freelance, Cadence worries whether she can generate enough income to support herself and Charlie. In a lot of ways, Cadence measures herself against her thinner, more popular sister, her driven mother, and the other moms at the play group and sees herself as coming up short.
Lo and behold, a glass of wine seems to take the edge off. What could be the harm? Then she needs two, to get that same feeling of being at home in her own skin, then one bottle, then two. Although she loves her son fiercely, she begins to slip, until the night she leaves him alone in order to run to the store for more wine.
Suddenly, Cadence finds herself in a battle for custody of her son, and for sobriety in the face of a sneaky foe that has snuck up on her and taken over her life.
As a recovering alcoholic myself--27 years sober--I found myself identifying with Cadence at every turn. I liked her; she clearly loves her son fiercely, she shares my love of cooking and good food, and she was just the kind of good-hearted but vulnerable person one can't help but root for.
Being a woman alcoholic comes with its own special troupe of demons, and Cadence meets them all, from the sour, starched ex-mother in law's withering scorn, to the snarky alpha moms at the coffee shop, to the enormous challenge of making peace with having been drunk in front of her son and having put him at risk. One of the surprises Cadence encounters is that her "best kept secret" wasn't very secret at all.
I loved this book. The author has a real knack for creating real characters who are neither all good nor all bad, but simply and heartbreakingly human. I loved Cadence and her son. I recognized all the secondary characters. Only someone who has undergone this journey could have written about it so marvelously. One of the beautiful things about recovery is that you find out you're not alone. This book was like listening to a friend who gets it. That said, this isn't just a novel for people with addiction issues. I think anyone with a heart would enjoy it. Highly recommended.
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