Title: Best Kept Secret
Author: Amy Hatvany
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Ever since her divorce, Cadence has been scrambling to keep up with life. The money from her divorce settlement has almost run out, and the freelance writer’s market is difficult. Cadence is afraid she won’t be able to support her beloved young son, Charlie. She begins drinking as a way to take the edge off the day - a glass of wine after Charlie goes to bed. But it soon escalates to a point where the alcohol, and not Cadence, is in control, and she is in danger of losing her son.
I knew Best Kept Secret would be an emotional read, but what I didn’t expect was how it captured me from the very first page. From the very beginning, Cadence is a woman that is easy to sympathize with. Of course, she is not perfect and she’s made many mistakes along the way, but she has the reader’s heart from the first page. This is crucial, because as Cadence flashes back to her descent into alcoholism, she makes some horrible choices because of her addiction.
In hands less talented than Amy Hatvany’s, Cadence might have become an object of disgust for the reader. But instead, Hatvany’s nuanced and incredibly honest portrayal of an alcoholic will really speak to readers, mothers and non-mothers alike. Cadence is a single mom just struggling to get by - who can blame her for wanting a couple of glasses of wine at night after Charlie has gone to sleep? But the way her drinking escalates is incredibly realistic and frightening at the same time.
Hatvany also discusses the challenges facing alcoholics in an accessible way. The judgment, the idea that it is about a lack of self-control, the hesitation to call alcoholism a disease - Cadence experiences it all on her road to recovery. The most difficult part in my eyes was the isolation Cadence felt. The people she used to know didn’t understand her anymore. She couldn’t run out to grab a martini with her girlfriends because she was an alcoholic, something they couldn’t understand and instead judged Cadence for. It was heartbreaking and beautifully portrayed.
Though my review of this novel may make it sounds difficult to read, it’s not, and I honestly found that astonishing. I was prepared for a hard read I would have to slog through, but instead, I found an accessible and gripping novel. Hatvany’s prose draws the reader in from the very first sentence; the book reads very quickly, and readers won’t want to put it down. It’s also surprisingly uplifting and heartwarming; Cadence has to work hard to come to a place of acceptance, but her journey is rewarding.
I’ve discussed the realism of this novel, and how honest it felt, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the author is a recovering alcoholic. This is such an emotionally raw novel that will hold you from beginning to end. The story is fictional, but Hatvany understands what it is to be an alcoholic. I imagine this was a difficult book to write and share with the world, and I am so impressed by the results.
I can’t say enough great things about Best Kept Secret. It’s intense and personal and honest and emotional, yet it is beautiful and real and uplifting. I loved the contradictions in this book, how it made me want to laugh with joy and cry at the same time. I was so emotionally involved in Cadence’s journey, and I was so sorry to leave her at the end of the novel. Amy Hatvany is an author to watch for me; I can’t wait to see what she does next.