Tragic Sandwich

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Here Be Spoilers

That’s it. That’s your warning. If you read beyond this (which I’m adding for those of you who get previews in your RSS readers), then consider yourself to have made an informed choice. You’re about to read plot and character details from a book that I’m reading and loathing. Ready? Here we go:

So I’m reading Secret Lives by Diane Chamberlain (not to be confused with The Secret Life of Ceecee Wilkes, by the same author). It’s my first book by Chamberlain, and it’s likely to be my last.

The basic story is this: Eden, an actress and divorced mother, goes back to her hometown to write a screenplay about her late mother. In the process, she discovers long-hidden family secrets which serve largely as counterpoint to her own dilemmas.

One of those dilemmas–and this is where the book completely loses me–is whether she should have a relationship with a convicted child molester.

He’s innocent, of course. The book makes this clear, and Eden believes in his innocence almost immediately. But here’s the thing:

The love interest, Ben, has been convicted of molesting his own daughter. Eden has no qualms–literally none, about leaving her own young daughter alone in his care. She refuses to spend even a moment thinking about how this would affect:

  • Her career as the star of children’s movies
  • Her work as spokesperson for a children’s charity
  • Her access to her own daughter

Seriously, when her agent points out that Eden’s ex-husband may go to court to change their custody agreement to keep her away from the convicted child molester, Eden’s response is, “I have an excellent lawyer.”

Then, when the totally predictable public reaction occurs, Eden is shocked and devastated. Because she had no idea it could happen. Because she is a complete moron.

Eden is able to identify the real molester after he touches her own daughter inappropriately. But she’s not angry, really, because “I’m sure he thought that was the only way he could get me to figure out what was going on without actually telling me.”

What?

Look, I get it. Women do this. They trust their children with people they shouldn’t–and the reason they shouldn’t is that those people aren’t innocent. I know this happens in the real world. And the fact that it does is horrible.

But this is a novel, and I’m clearly supposed to relate to Eden, and find her decisions to be reasonable. And they aren’t. I can understand that she believes in Ben’s innocence. I cannot believe that she doesn’t think about how others will perceive the situation. I cannot believe that she thinks her ex-husband is small-minded when he objects to his 4-year-old spending time with a convicted sex offender.

I cannot relate to this woman. I don’t like her. I think she’s self-centered and oblivious to a degree that is potentially damaging to the most defenseless people around her.

And beyond that, I’m really bothered that the real problem is how inconvenient this problem is for Eden, because she reallyreally loves Ben. The close second is how horrible it’s been for Ben to be living with this false accusation and conviction. But isn’t the real horror what happened to his daughter? Maybe not, because Chamberlain doesn’t seem to want to spend much time on her.

So why am I finishing this book? I guess because I want to see how it ends, and because it’s like that accident on the side of the road that everyone slows down to look at.

I’m not reading, I’m rubbernecking.

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6 thoughts on “Here Be Spoilers

  1. wow, thanks for the review, I think I would have the same reaction to the book. Good for you for not giving up, hope it has a happy ending.

    • It does, although in my opinion it’s still an unrealistic ending (the true villain is caught, Ben is vindicated and gets his job and reputation back, and he and Eden decide to marry–and not one person anywhere says, “He can’t be totally innocent. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”)

  2. This line made my jaw drop: “I’m sure he thought that was the only way he could get me to figure out what was going on without actually telling me.” Whoa… I suppose there isn’t a “normal” way to respond to that type of situation, but I can’t imagine there are too many women who would rationalize the molestation of their own child in such a way. Wow.

  3. Wow, I’m surprised she would write this way. I read “The Midwife’s Confession” and enjoyed it (although it was a bit predictable). But you walk a fine line when writing about child molestation. Sounds like this one didn’t get the line right.

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