"There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about...angels.
Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents' murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice's daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen-who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.
But then the state's attorney begins to suspect that Alice's husband may not have killed himself...and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.
Secrets of Eden is haunting in its complexity. Chris Bohjalian writes his novel in such a way that only tiny pieces of information escape a little at a time. Important clues as to what has happened so you know what is coming up...but yet you don't. Because Bohjalians twisted course coils and snakes its way around to make you wonder if you knew as much as you thought you did.
Secrets of Eden is a compelling and disturbing look into the lives and deaths of Alice and George Hayword through the eyes of three very distinct characters; Stephen Drew, their pastor, Heather Laurent the "angel" author, and Katie Hayward, their teenage daughter. Each person voices their fears and suspicions about what probably happened that night and who most likely was involved. In Bohjalian's way, however, you don't find out what happened until the very end. As in the very last line.
But don't go thinking you can pick this book up, flip through the pages to find that last line and read it before you read the book in its totality. Not only would that be cheating, it would be cheating the author and yourself of the brilliantly flexuous way your mind will need to work to absorb this evocative thriller. 3.5/5 stars