Title: Secrets She Kept
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrators: Morgan Hallett and Suzy Jackson
Published: September 2015
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 13 hours, 34 minutes. Unabridged.
About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)
All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.
Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love—but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.
Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.
My Thoughts on the Book:
I had the pleasure recently of listening to the audiobook edition of Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke. This book has won a Christy Award and an INSPY Award, and this audio edition was a finalist for an Audie Award. Some impressive accolades, yes?
My impression? There’s vivid storytelling here, alongside close attention to historical detail, and the overall emotional impact is powerful. I loved the dual first person storylines and timelines, particularly the way the stories meshed and played off of each other. Hannah’s quest to understand her family’s past made an interesting modern-day frame for the story of her mother Lieselotte’s experiences during World War II. Questions are asked and secrets are gradually revealed to both Hannah and the reader throughout the course of the book in such a way as to deepen the emotional impact. Thematically, characters wrestle with issues surrounding forgiveness, and I thought the appearances by Corrie Ten Boom within the plot were a lovely touch, helping to drive home the book’s message in memorable terms.
Much as I admired and enjoyed reading this book, there was one aspect of the ending that bugged me. [Will try to be vague here so as not to spoil anything…] When all the secrets were revealed, I found myself skeptical that one character’s perceptions of another could have been so skewed in the way they were… despite the explanations given… and I didn’t really get why those misconceptions couldn’t have been corrected earlier. [Anyone else who’s read it feel the same way? Or am I maybe overthinking this?]
Anyway, while I can’t say this was my number one ranked read of the year, or my favorite title from this author (loved Saving Amelie so much!), I can say that this is an excellent book, well worth the read, particularly for anyone with an interest in World War II era stories.
Specific to the Audio Edition:
The narrators for the audio edition did a great job conveying the story in an engaging and dynamic way. And yes, I did say “narrators” plural. There are two narrators for this story, one for each time period and its first person viewpoint character. That is to say, Suzy Jackson tells Lieselotte’s portions of the story set during World War II, while Morgan Hallett relates Hannah Sterling’s more modern-day rediscovery of the past. I felt this arrangement worked fabulously for this story. The two narrators have distinctly different voices and styles, which seemed well matched with the personality of the main character they each portrayed. As an added benefit, when returning to the audiobook after a break in listening, it was easy to tell within a brief soundbyte which time period and which character’s world we’re visiting, simply by recognizing the voice of the narrator. Overall, a great listening experience, and highly recommended.
Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.