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Reviewed by Elise Cooper


This Secret Thing
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Lake Union Pub
Oct. 1st, 2020
Women’s Fiction

This Secret Thing by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is about sisterhood and how a band of women supported each other through harsh times.
The author noted, "Years ago, a suburban madam was arrested in my town. Back then, I had never heard of such a thing and was intrigued by the thought that someone who leads such a normal life on the surface could be hiding so much. When I read the article that ran in our town paper, it said that the woman arrested had teenage daughters. I thought to myself, "Man, it's hard enough to be a teenage girl. Imagine being a teenage girl whose mother is arrested for prostitution!" I didn't know it then, but at that moment, the character of Violet was born."

Norah Ramsey is a single mother accused of being a suburban madame in Raleigh, North Carolina. After her mother's arrest, Norah's teenage daughter, Violet, is devastated, alone, and trying to figure out a way to cope. She has no one to turn to until her grandmother Polly arrives. Polly, long estranged from Norah, is running from her own troubles. There is also Bess, once Norah's best friend, who desperately tries to hide secrets while Casey, Bess's daughter, flees college after a traumatic event, only to find that home isn't the haven she expected. And Nico, the detective who has doggedly pursued Norah Ramsey in hopes that she will lead him to his missing brother, is drawn further into these women's lives while facing his own domestic disturbance. As each delves into Norah's secrets, they must come to grips with their own hidden agendas, with the power to hurt or heal.

"I wrote Violent as the center of the story. She pulls everybody together. As a typical fifteen- year-old-girl, she is at times awkward, timid, and not sure of herself. Her grandmother, Polly, is a strong woman with an attitude. She is a "Steel Magnolias kind of character, very Southern, very stubborn, and very tough."
There are many narrators, where several of the characters have their own issues and tell their own perspective. At the end of the story, everything comes together. The emphasis is how secrets can hurt others, especially when things happen unexpectedly.

Reviewed 2020