Past Secrets

( 5 )

Overview

They all hide secrets that won't go away....

From the outside, the welcoming, garden-adorned houses of Summer Street are the picture of Irish charm. But on the inside, unexpected and heartbreaking secrets swirl. At house number thirty-two, hardworking, single-mother Faye Reid conceals the truth about her marriage from her fiery daughter, Amber. But Amber, a budding artist, also hides something from her all-too-trusting mother: a relationship with a rock star hopeful for whom she...

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Overview

They all hide secrets that won't go away....

From the outside, the welcoming, garden-adorned houses of Summer Street are the picture of Irish charm. But on the inside, unexpected and heartbreaking secrets swirl. At house number thirty-two, hardworking, single-mother Faye Reid conceals the truth about her marriage from her fiery daughter, Amber. But Amber, a budding artist, also hides something from her all-too-trusting mother: a relationship with a rock star hopeful for whom she plans to throw away her future. And at number forty-eight, Maggie Maguire arrives at her childhood home to help her sick mother, a welcome distraction from the life she left behind and the startling secret she's hiding -- from herself.

And only become harder to keep...

At thirty-four Summer Street, wise and kind Christie Devlin has the remarkable ability to see into the lives and hearts of others -- and may have the answers when her neighbors' carefully hidden secrets bubble to the surface. But when Christie's own past comes back to haunt her -- posing a threat to her picture-perfect marriage -- this time the answers aren't as clear.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Kelly's ninth novel, a cross-generational contemporary romance set in Ireland, is packed with high drama and the emotion to match. At 60, Christie Devlin and her peaceful home and garden are the heart of Dublin's picturesque Summer Street. But when a surprising nook of art teacher Christie's past is unearthed, the 30 fulfilling years Christie has spent with her husband, James, and their family threaten to unravel. Her neighbors, meanwhile, have their own crises to attend to: single mom Faye Reid is horrified when her daughter, Amber, drops out of college to travel with her musician boyfriend, prompting Faye to follow her to try to prevent her from making the same mistake Faye made in her youth. Wounded by an awkward adolescence and a cheating boyfriend, 30-year-old Maggie Maguire wishes she could stop letting her past hold her back from self-acceptance as she returns home to care for her ailing mother. If Kelly's sins are too many peripheral characters, an uneasy transition into Amber's teenage voice and meandering passages that could have been edited out, then they are easily forgiven. Kelly's evocation of mother-daughter relationships shines, and her handle on romance storytelling combined with her characters' feel-good, empowering evolutions make this a satisfying novel. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Irish author Kelly follows up Always and Foreverwith this feel-good novel about the secret lives of women. From the outside, the houses on Summer Street evoke a sense of quiet tranquility. On the inside, their occupants harbor secrets that threaten to unravel their carefully planned lives. Amber is hiding her relationship with a budding rock star from her single mother, Faye, but Faye has a past of her own. Maggie arrives home to care for her failing mother while running from a cheating boyfriend and a tragic past. Sixty-year-old Christie displays a steady understanding and a guiding hand when her friends need her, but her own past comes back to haunt her. As usual, Kelly displays a stunning ability to illustrate the bonds of women's friendships. Her characters are well drawn and believable, and readers will be satisfied by the resilience that each woman shows. This will make a nice addition to any women's fiction collection.
—Nanci Milone Hill

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416531593
  • Publisher: Downtown Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 544,526
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Kelly is the Irish bestselling author of twelve other novels, many of which have been number one bestsellers in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. She lives in Ireland with her husband and twin sons. In 2005 she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Contact her on Twitter at @cathykellybooks or follow her on Facebook or at CathyKelly.com.
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Introduction

Introduction

When you're ashamed, it's easy to build it up into a huge secret
you dare not trust with anyone.

In a cozy little neighborhood in Ireland, the women of Summer Street are full of secrets. Haunted by buried moments of their pasts, each will have to unearth her secret in order to put her life, and the lives of those she loves, back on the right path:

  • Art teacher Christie Devlin is adored by everyone — her husband, her two adult sons, her friends, and her students. But 25 years ago, one love made her into "The Dark Lady."
  • Maggie McGuire is a gorgeous librarian who is forced to move back to her hometown, the place where someone bullied her into believing she was not worthy of love.
  • Headhunter Faye Reid has sacrificed everything for her teenage daughter, Amber. But when Amber follows her heart and leaves Summer Street, both mother and daughter will have to come to terms with their true identities.

As their quaint neighborhood faces the destruction of a landmark building in their park, Christie, Maggie, Faye, and Amber face the hurt that they have done to others...and to themselves. But through neighborly compassion and their own individual strengths, each woman works to find her way back home.

Discussion Questions

1. "There had only been that one time in her married life when it had all nearly gone wrong, and, like catching a falling glass before it hit the floor, Christie had adverted the disaster. There was a tiny crack left behind from that time, but nobody except Christie could see it" (page 12). Do you believe that no one else ever sensed Christie's secret? Why or why not?

2. "Her wholelife, Christie had been able to see things that other people couldn't" (page 15). Discuss the theme of sight in this novel — what do the main characters neglect to see in their own lives?

3. "But time had turned Faye's white lie into a giant black one and now she couldn't stomach repeating it any more" (page 43). How do you feel about Faye's deception? Do you think her lies were justifiable? Why or why not?

4. "Whatever happened to her? She hasn't been in touch for years, not since Ana was involved with that artist fellow..." (page 92). Why do you think Christie lost touch with her friend Lenkya?

5. What role does the "Save Our Park" campaign play in this novel?

6. "Looking backwards is a terrible thing" (page 118). Do you agree or disagree with Christie's statement?

7. What is the significance of the tiger's eye pendant that Amber wears?

8. "I've sent her off into the world not knowing the truth about anything that mattered because I wanted to protect her," (page 184). Is this true or is Faye being too hard on herself?

9. "If a girl from a small town in China could travel thousands of miles to a strange land where she knew nobody to start a new life, then she wasn't going to spend the rest of her life being afraid of what happened to her when she was a schoolgirl" (page 281). What else gives Maggie the strength to move forward with her life?

10. "The people we love often don't see our pain, and that's one of the hardest things in the world to cope with," (page 285). Who are the people who fail to see the pain in Christie, Maggie, Faye and Amber?

11. "Once you had tasted extraordinary and the dangers it brought, you longed for the familiar and you thought how precious that was" (page 351). What does each character long for?

12. "Like mother, like daughter, Faye thought endlessly..." (page 409). How is motherhood used throughout this novel?

13. Which character said:

  • "Leave me alone to live my life my way! You don't know what I want," (answer on page 47).
  • "Sometimes I worry that it could all go horribly wrong and we could end up bitter and twisted" (answer on page 164).
  • "I used to think that if nobody saw me, it was safer" (answer on page 220).
  • "Bad things happen whether you see them or not," (answer on page 300).
  • "You always refused to play the games, the games other people played," (answer on page 355).
  • "Money may not be everything, but it sure helps, and if you're miserable, you can be miserable in comfort," (answer on page 365).
  • "I work on the belief that you've got to learn by other people's mistakes, because you never live long enough to make them all yourself," (answer on page 421).

Author Questions

1. You use music, art, and literature in Past Secrets. What made you focus on these subjects while writing about Christie, Faye, Maggie, and Amber?

I love music and art and when you're writing a novel - which takes a year of your life - it's wonderful to incorporate something you're passionate about. I adored art at school and I toyed briefly with going to art college, so I've a lifelong love of the subject. Just the other day, I took my small twin sons to the National Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, where I live, just so they could breathe in great art.

2. Both Christie and Amber are muses to other artists. Who is your muse?

What a brilliant question! You know, I love the notion of a muse and think it works marvelously well in music, art, and fashion, but not quite the same in writing. With painters, they paint the same person, taking greater shades of character each time, but I can't see that working for me. The only possible comparison is thinking about a certain reader as I write and I don't do that. I write about what fascinates me, I never dream up someone to write to.

3. How do you go about naming characters for your books? Do they come to mind easily or do you agonize over selecting a name? What was the process like in this novel?

Naming people is a complete nightmare! Names are so important and sometimes I can write a character and they just don't work right in my mind, but if I change their name, bingo! It works. I have books and books of names. In this book, Amber was the easiest as it's such a glorious name and conjures up images of fiery passion, like the ochre jewel itself. Incidentally, I love amber jewelry.

4. Is this book based on a real "Summer Street" neighborhood?

No, I totally made it up. I absolutely adore imagining streets and villages. It's a little like being a child again and creating an imaginary world. I'm one of those people who sit on the train when it's dark and peek into people's houses all lit up. Creating a street is like that only you are totally in charge...well, until the characters take over and take charge.

5. Why was it important to include the "Save Our Park" campaign in the story?

It was sort of a metaphor about revering the past and it sort of linked in with the sense that Christie has ancient powers of seeing things. We can learn so much from the past. I love the future but not at the expense of tearing down beautiful old buildings or parks.

6. Christie has a "second sight." What kind of experience, if any, do you have with clairvoyants?

As a journalist, I wrote a couple of articles about clairvoyants and I'm fascinated by the whole subject. I wanted to explore what it would be like for Christie to have a little of that gift, yet feel uneasy about it because of her Catholic background. The whole realm of the other world and Catholicism don't sit easily together and it was interesting to write about a woman who was able to accept her gift, despite her fears.

7. You hold some information back from the readers such as what ever happened to Amber's father and why Lenkya disappeared from Christine's life. Why the mysteries?

There are no intentional mysteries. Lenkya moved on, the way people move on. Somebody told me that people appear in your life for a reason, for a season, or for life, and that's simply what happened here. Regarding Amber's dad, I decided it would have turned into another book if she began to search for him. That search for a parent is another story I'd like to do but not in this book.

8. On your website, you offer the writing advice, "Write what you believe in." What aspects of Past Secrets do you believe in?

Sorting out the past in your head. That's the theme of this book: not to let the past take over. And it's about being your authentic self, which I feel is so important. That's one of my core beliefs: try to be yourself. It doesn't always work out but there's huge emotional honesty in being yourself.

9. How do you feel about sequels? Would you ever do a sequel to this novel?

I like sequels but have never written any and have no plans to do so right now, but as James Bond says, never say never!

Readers Tips

A Cause for Your Club: The residents of Summer Street fight to save a landmark building in their neighborhood. Discuss what common causes your book-club members have and take action as a group. Or find out how you can get involved with the author's favorite charity at www.cathykelly.com/unicef.htm.

A Fun Field Trip: Take your book club to a local library event, art show, or concert.

Get Gardening: The homes of Summer Street have picturesque gardens. Invite your club members over to help you in your garden or give them something to plant in their garden.

Take Time for Tea: Christie believes a good cup of tea can help with all of life's problems. Have everyone in your club bring a different tea to share and don't forget the shortbread biscuits!

Cathy Kelly is the author of six other novels, all of which were #1 bestsellers in Ireland, as well as top ten bestsellers in England. Someone Like You was the Parker RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. Look for her story in Irish Girls About Town, also available from Downtown Press. Cathy lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her partner and their two sons.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

When you're ashamed, it's easy to build it up into a huge secret you dare not trust with anyone.

In a cozy little neighborhood in Ireland, the women of Summer Street are full of secrets. Haunted by buried moments of their pasts, each will have to unearth her secret in order to put her life, and the lives of those she loves, back on the right path:

  • Art teacher Christie Devlin is adored by everyone — her husband, her two adult sons, her friends, and her students. But 25 years ago, one love made her into "The Dark Lady."
  • Maggie McGuire is a gorgeous librarian who is forced to move back to her hometown, the place where someone bullied her into believing she was not worthy of love.
  • Headhunter Faye Reid has sacrificed everything for her teenage daughter, Amber. But when Amber follows her heart and leaves Summer Street, both mother and daughter will have to come to terms with their true identities.

As their quaint neighborhood faces the destruction of a landmark building in their park, Christie, Maggie, Faye, and Amber face the hurt that they have done to others...and to themselves. But through neighborly compassion and their own individual strengths, each woman works to find her way back home.

Discussion Questions

1. "There had only been that one time in her married life when it had all nearly gone wrong, and, like catching a falling glass before it hit the floor, Christie had adverted the disaster. There was a tiny crack left behind from that time, but nobody except Christie could see it" (page 12). Do you believe that no one else ever sensed Christie's secret? Why or why not?

2. "Her whole life, Christie had been able to see things that other people couldn't" (page 15). Discuss the theme of sight in this novel — what do the main characters neglect to see in their own lives?

3. "But time had turned Faye's white lie into a giant black one and now she couldn't stomach repeating it any more" (page 43). How do you feel about Faye's deception? Do you think her lies were justifiable? Why or why not?

4. "Whatever happened to her? She hasn't been in touch for years, not since Ana was involved with that artist fellow..." (page 92). Why do you think Christie lost touch with her friend Lenkya?

5. What role does the "Save Our Park" campaign play in this novel?

6. "Looking backwards is a terrible thing" (page 118). Do you agree or disagree with Christie's statement?

7. What is the significance of the tiger's eye pendant that Amber wears?

8. "I've sent her off into the world not knowing the truth about anything that mattered because I wanted to protect her," (page 184). Is this true or is Faye being too hard on herself?

9. "If a girl from a small town in China could travel thousands of miles to a strange land where she knew nobody to start a new life, then she wasn't going to spend the rest of her life being afraid of what happened to her when she was a schoolgirl" (page 281). What else gives Maggie the strength to move forward with her life?

10. "The people we love often don't see our pain, and that's one of the hardest things in the world to cope with," (page 285). Who are the people who fail to see the pain in Christie, Maggie, Faye and Amber?

11. "Once you had tasted extraordinary and the dangers it brought, you longed for the familiar and you thought how precious that was" (page 351). What does each character long for?

12. "Like mother, like daughter, Faye thought endlessly..." (page 409). How is motherhood used throughout this novel?

13. Which character said:

  • "Leave me alone to live my life my way! You don't know what I want," (answer on page 47).
  • "Sometimes I worry that it could all go horribly wrong and we could end up bitter and twisted" (answer on page 164).
  • "I used to think that if nobody saw me, it was safer" (answer on page 220).
  • "Bad things happen whether you see them or not," (answer on page 300).
  • "You always refused to play the games, the games other people played," (answer on page 355).
  • "Money may not be everything, but it sure helps, and if you're miserable, you can be miserable in comfort," (answer on page 365).
  • "I work on the belief that you've got to learn by other people's mistakes, because you never live long enough to make them all yourself," (answer on page 421).

Author Questions

1. You use music, art, and literature in Past Secrets. What made you focus on these subjects while writing about Christie, Faye, Maggie, and Amber?

I love music and art and when you're writing a novel - which takes a year of your life - it's wonderful to incorporate something you're passionate about. I adored art at school and I toyed briefly with going to art college, so I've a lifelong love of the subject. Just the other day, I took my small twin sons to the National Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, where I live, just so they could breathe in great art.

2. Both Christie and Amber are muses to other artists. Who is your muse?

What a brilliant question! You know, I love the notion of a muse and think it works marvelously well in music, art, and fashion, but not quite the same in writing. With painters, they paint the same person, taking greater shades of character each time, but I can't see that working for me. The only possible comparison is thinking about a certain reader as I write and I don't do that. I write about what fascinates me, I never dream up someone to write to.

3. How do you go about naming characters for your books? Do they come to mind easily or do you agonize over selecting a name? What was the process like in this novel?

Naming people is a complete nightmare! Names are so important and sometimes I can write a character and they just don't work right in my mind, but if I change their name, bingo! It works. I have books and books of names. In this book, Amber was the easiest as it's such a glorious name and conjures up images of fiery passion, like the ochre jewel itself. Incidentally, I love amber jewelry.

4. Is this book based on a real "Summer Street" neighborhood?

No, I totally made it up. I absolutely adore imagining streets and villages. It's a little like being a child again and creating an imaginary world. I'm one of those people who sit on the train when it's dark and peek into people's houses all lit up. Creating a street is like that only you are totally in charge...well, until the characters take over and take charge.

5. Why was it important to include the "Save Our Park" campaign in the story?

It was sort of a metaphor about revering the past and it sort of linked in with the sense that Christie has ancient powers of seeing things. We can learn so much from the past. I love the future but not at the expense of tearing down beautiful old buildings or parks.

6. Christie has a "second sight." What kind of experience, if any, do you have with clairvoyants?

As a journalist, I wrote a couple of articles about clairvoyants and I'm fascinated by the whole subject. I wanted to explore what it would be like for Christie to have a little of that gift, yet feel uneasy about it because of her Catholic background. The whole realm of the other world and Catholicism don't sit easily together and it was interesting to write about a woman who was able to accept her gift, despite her fears.

7. You hold some information back from the readers such as what ever happened to Amber's father and why Lenkya disappeared from Christine's life. Why the mysteries?

There are no intentional mysteries. Lenkya moved on, the way people move on. Somebody told me that people appear in your life for a reason, for a season, or for life, and that's simply what happened here. Regarding Amber's dad, I decided it would have turned into another book if she began to search for him. That search for a parent is another story I'd like to do but not in this book.

8. On your website, you offer the writing advice, "Write what you believe in." What aspects of Past Secrets do you believe in?

Sorting out the past in your head. That's the theme of this book: not to let the past take over. And it's about being your authentic self, which I feel is so important. That's one of my core beliefs: try to be yourself. It doesn't always work out but there's huge emotional honesty in being yourself.

9. How do you feel about sequels? Would you ever do a sequel to this novel?

I like sequels but have never written any and have no plans to do so right now, but as James Bond says, never say never!

Readers Tips

A Cause for Your Club: The residents of Summer Street fight to save a landmark building in their neighborhood. Discuss what common causes your book-club members have and take action as a group. Or find out how you can get involved with the author's favorite charity at www.cathykelly.com/unicef.htm.

A Fun Field Trip: Take your book club to a local library event, art show, or concert.

Get Gardening: The homes of Summer Street have picturesque gardens. Invite your club members over to help you in your garden or give them something to plant in their garden.

Take Time for Tea: Christie believes a good cup of tea can help with all of life's problems. Have everyone in your club bring a different tea to share and don't forget the shortbread biscuits!

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    Loved it

    I want to read more of her books

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    Great story

    Cathy Kelly has a talent for making readers sympathize with characters, and while this one wasn't my favorite, I still enjoyed it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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