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Great summer read: Chris Bohjalian's "Secrets of Eden"

I look at summer as a good time to catch up on the things I have wanted to read but haven't quite managed to get around to yet. A few weeks back I finally pulled out Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden from the ever-growing stacks around the house (no, I still don't have an e-reader) and I am glad I did.

Eden The novel - it's now out in paperback if you want it for the beach or poolside - is about the repercussions of two deaths in a small Vermont town. At first, it appears churchgoing Alice Hayward has been murdered by her abusive husband, who then killed himself. But things turn out to be more complicated than that, and the story evolves through the not-always-reliable narratives of four people closely involved with the Haywards: church pastor Stephen Drew, whose connection to the family is more complex than it appears; tough-minded deputy state attorney Catherine Benincasa, who is suspicious of Stephen; Heather Laurent, a bestselling author of books about angels who grew up in a home rife with domestic abuse; and Katie, the teenage and now orphaned daughter of the Haywards.

Herald editor Amy Driscoll reviewed the book when it first came out, and here's what she had to say:

"Bohjalian has written a literary murder mystery that hooks readers early and keeps its secrets until the end. His characters reflect contemporary society - the smart-mouthed, knowing teen; the celebrity inspirational author - but his portraits serve more as critique than applause. He's questioning our own unthinking belief that we somehow know people from snippets on CNN or glossy spreads in People magazine.

He brings the story back to a gut level with the vivid colors of domestic violence -- the purple of strangulation marks, the blue of bruises, the scarlet of blood. A husband who is a pillar of society on the outside can be a violent monster at home, and Bohjalian's writing works on two levels as well. The language is calm, almost lulling, leading the reader along, right into the emotional razor blade embedded in the words."

Bohjalian's next novel, The Night Strangers, arrives Oct. 4.


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