||Dog Ear Publishing
Author website for Barbara Forte Abate
1957-The last summer spent at the ancient house overlooking the North Atlantic. A season which had unfolded with abundant promise, but then spiraled horribly out of control - torn apart by a shattering tragedy that remains splintered upon her soul.
Propelled by an insurmountable sense of desperation, Stevie Burke is recklessly abandoning home, husband, and outwardly contented life under cover of night; at last resigned to defeat in her long battle against the tortured memories of her past...
The Secret of Lies is a coming-of-age novel woven together with elements of tragedy, suspense, mystery, love, romance, and loss.
Maybe it's the raw brilliance of the pale white moon suspended in a hard black sky that somehow makes everything about this night feel harsher. Uglier. Failing to soften what now seems especially unconscionable.
Whispering Winds Reviews
I have never read a book as intense as this book is. It is brilliantly written, and at times my husband swears I was saying, “No, you jerk, or don’t you dare.” That is how powerful this story line is. Eleanor who is twelve and her sister Stevie who is 10 leave their home town of Callicoo, Pennsylvania to go every summer to visit their Aunt Smyrna and her husband Cal at their vacation home on Long Island. Their days are filled with swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, checking out the boys and having fun with their Aunt Smyrna.
That is until the summer of 1957…We now find Eleanor seventeen and Stevie fifth- teen. What happened that summer is something that has to be kept a secret, or so Aunt Smyrna tells Stevie. Stevie is trapped in a vortex and it is destroying her adult life. How many lives are altered by one moment in time, one decision made in that moment? How many moments does it take too completely and irreversibly alter one’s life?
To tell you more will ruin what makes this book so great. It is a must buy for your own personal library.
Five star rating
The Secret of Lies is a character driven novel, which gave the reader insight into the internal struggle of the main character. Stephanie Burke, was trying to regain some happiness in her life after being dragged through the lies of her family. This young woman, who had been forced to grow up in a web of lies, was attempting to make a life for herself.
The novel began with a prologue before the first chapter. The reader is drawn into the feelings of the main character. You realize her state of mind, the turmoil she has endured and the emotional struggle that has her torn apart by what has happened in her life. Within the first chapter, the reader is brought to the beginning of how it all happened.
Conflict lies throughout the book with the main character. Stephanie having to grow up with the guilt surrounding her sister, the ties that she had with her Aunt Smyrna, the deception she held from her mother were all issues battling at Stephanie’s psyche. Struggling to overcome her personal demons, she tried to cope and go on with life.
Barbara Forte Abate resolves the conflict and does not leave the readers hanging. She brought us through an exciting story through the efforts of her main character. To the detriment of Stephanie’s own relationship, she tries to solve her problems alone.
The author brought everything to life and made you feel you were a part of the family. You felt empathy when the relationship between Uncle Cal and Aunt Smyrna slowly started to unravel. You saw through the façade of what began to happen with Eleanor and her coming of age. You are drawn into the story and feel sorry for the chain of events that occured in the story.
The characters jump out at you. They are animated and relatable. Barbara does an amazing job in describing the characters; the setting, Stephanie’s hometown, the people she interacts with, her own family and making it all come together in one satisfying story.
The dialogue was enjoyable and true to life. The words were descriptive and continued to propel the story forward. The Secret of Lies was written in Stephanie’s point of view and the story did not sway from her outlook but continued to flow.
Barbara Forte Abate has written a creative, entertaining story in The Secret of Lies, which makes any reader understand the hidden secrets in any family. Your heart goes out to lovable characters and an appreciation for what is important.
For The Love of Reading
Barbara Forte Abate has such a gift for bringing to life real relationships between ordinary people that she creates an ongoing challenge to her readers by beginning her book with the lowest point of her character’s life: being drawn to run away and face her inner demons alone. The reader accepts Stephanie, or Stevie, as a real girl who grows up to be a real woman: her desperate act runs counter to the usual (and expected) female response to life, which is to passively endure the outcome of events. It is the author’s task to make sense of this act and to reveal it for what it is: a brief trough in the progression of life. Her message is feminine. It isn’t easy growing up female. Cut us some slack, and we’ll make things right. We need to make an active response, especially to such a threatening emotion as guilt.
Amidst all the disturbing events of her life, narrated with subtle honesty by Stevie herself, we see the fragile but warm interactions of her life. Stevie’s focus is herself, not the other party; it is a limitation that causes her to stumble through life missing the signs and details that would broaden her understanding of others. Lacking intuition, she must learn through experience. Stevie and her sister are close but far apart in temperament. Stevie’s mother and father come to life as caring and distinct individuals, unlike her aunt and uncle who are immersed in their own little world. Stevie’s promising relationship to a deaf boy is abruptly ended by circumstances, but her multifaceted relationship with Ash comes to life in all its playful stages.
In drawing her plot line, the author shows a respect for the complexity and fragility of marriage itself. There are many obstacles to be overcome before Stevie can open herself to love and even more before she can allow Ash to fully share in her life. In the meantime, Stevie’s withdrawal seems to him another personal rejection. The author leaves the reader with hope that, over time, the couple will move beyond their pain and build a solid life together.
At the heart of the novel is the age gap between sisters at the pivotal summer of l957 when Stevie lashes out with a torrent of words fueled by shock and disgust. There is a two year age gap between Stevie and her older sister. Such a gap would ordinarily fade in significance over a period of time, but instead the tragedy of death freezes it into permanence in Stevie’s mind. For sisters growing up in the fifties, as presented in this novel, the gap might well be substantial when one sister is fifteen and the other seventeen. What a difference in perspective, especially in a changing and contradictory society! The author focuses on that barrier between girls who are, in truth, hovering between childhood and adulthood. The younger child still looks at life with the eyes of a child, demanding that the world be as it should be. The older sister, engulfed in a whirlwind of change and experience, tries to understand and fit into the adult world. At times, using the brief advantage of experience and the inherent openness of conversation between siblings, the older sister tries to explain the complications of the adult world to the younger sister, but it is all in vain. We only listen to words that we understand and accept. When the older sister is growing up too fast, lacking guideposts and accepted limits, the world spins out of control for everyone. The younger child stands back, aware of but not sharing her older sister’s interests and focus. Lives separate and go in different directions. The result is a painful drama that, if told in the circumstances of this novel, must be gently conveyed with insistent honesty; in this novel, told through the voice of the younger child, the unfolding of an unwholesome relationship makes a compelling beginning to a story about the unraveling of the threads of a life.
Barbara Forte Abate is a sensitive writer who knows that there are no neutral observers in a dysfunctional family, even if the family is an extended one of aunt, uncle, and nieces, gathered only for the summer. An outbreak of discord, replacing harmony, is bad enough, but it is all too easy for visitors to take sides in a marital quarrel that should be kept between husband and wife: all it takes is sympathy and a feeling of understanding. Whether or not the visitors take sides, they are sure to feel uncomfortable and disturbed by the battle of bitter words raging around them. Worse still, such a battle may remain unacknowledged under a curtain of pretense. The picturesque setting of an seaside house, ideal for the languid days of a summer vacation, takes on ominous, stormy possibilities when a happy marriage turns sour.
The author clearly recreates her shoreline setting, giving it the tangible quality that draws Stevie back to bring closure to her past. The author conveys the expressiveness of the fifties and sixties that lingers in the memory, easily brought to recall by the music and gyrations of Elvis. Revealingly, it is just that music that triggers Stevie’s memories. Stevie is part of a generation free to enjoy the rock ‘n’ roll that their parents distrust. In writing this book, the author focuses on that aspect of a generation, leaving out the background of idealism that focused on John F. Kennedy and his dreams for America. That idealism isn’t very relevant to Stephanie as she changes from an uncertain girl of thirteen into a young woman trying to embrace life. Hers is a difficult life to follow in the pages of a book, but the rewards of doing so are great. We delve into the human condition as we focus on the feminine perspective, and that is the great reward of reading a novel like this one. Seeing a character wound up as tightly as Stephanie emerge from her shackles is both revealing and rewarding. We as readers must hope that this gifted writer will continue her writing career and imagine other characters who succeed in the difficult task of coming to terms with who they are. There are difficult issues here, but acknowledging them is a step toward gaining ascendancy. This book calls out for discussion as Stephanie senses the force of sexuality in her own life. With Ash and his life experiences, she has a chance to grow and control her own life. She can go beyond the desperate secrets that she was forced to keep by an adult world oblivious to her needs. She can forget the undeserved guilt that Ash rightfully calls the chip on her shoulder.
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