Safety of Secretsby DeLaune Michel
"Now we're just alike." So begins Fiona and Patricia's friendship that warm autumn morning in first grade in Lake Charles, Louisiana, their bond forged ever closer by Fiona's abusive mother and Patricia's neglectful one. Their relationship is a source of continuity and strength through their move to L.A. to become actresses; through Fiona's marriage and Patricia's
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"Now we're just alike." So begins Fiona and Patricia's friendship that warm autumn morning in first grade in Lake Charles, Louisiana, their bond forged ever closer by Fiona's abusive mother and Patricia's neglectful one. Their relationship is a source of continuity and strength through their move to L.A. to become actresses; through Fiona's marriage and Patricia's sudden fame. When husband and career pressures exact a toll, the women wonder if their friendship can survive. Then a dark secret from their past emerges, threatening to destroy not only their bond, but all they've worked for as well.
The Safety of Secrets is a beautifully written exploration of the bonds forged in childhood and challenged decades later, of the fulfillment of dreams and the damage they can cause, and of secrets being uncovered and the truth we find inside.
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The Safety of Secrets
I think I might be pregnant. And today is Mother's Day.
The only other time that I was pregnant, I found out last Halloween, so maybe my body is particularly fertile two weeks before a holiday. Because I read in this book that no matter how many days a woman's cycle is from ovulation to the first day of her period is exactly two weeks. Which seems kind of wonderful and yet odd to me for it to be that guaranteed. Though comforting, too, that amid all the chaos of life, inside every woman's body is this exquisite and punctual rhythm that is the same for us all. Like in that way at least, we're even.
That other pregnancy didn't work out, but I guess that is obvious or I wouldn't be wondering if I am pregnant now. Sometimes I imagine that Halloween was to blame for its ending since I found out on a day so connected with the dead—but also to my ancestry, actually.
The Irish brought the custom of Halloween to America in the mid-1840s when so many of them were fleeing their country's potato famine. Not that my relatives came then. They left Waterford, Ireland, in 1833; landed in Quebec; then made their way down to Corpus Christi, Texas, until "Indian hostilities," as my mother calls it, forced them to leave and they settled in Opelousas, Louisiana, then finally decades later, Lake Charles, where I grew up and celebrated Halloween.
The ancient origin of which was the belief that on that day disembodied spirits of those who had died in the previous year came back in search of living bodies to possess. They thought it was their only hope for an afterlife, so all laws of time and space weresuspended, allowing spirits to intermingle with the living. But the living didn't want to intermingle with them, didn't want to be possessed, so they extinguished their home fires and dressed up in hideous clothes to frighten the spirits away. Neither of which my recently conceived baby was able to do, and I didn't know to do, so maybe it got possessed.
And that is as good an explanation as the one my doctor gave me, which basically was that some just don't make it. For two weeks, the ultrasound kept showing that I was five to six weeks pregnant, but a heartbeat never appeared. A missed miscarriage is what Dr. Walker called it, meaning my body didn't get the message that the pregnancy wasn't going forward, so it stayed stuck in this blossom like some frozen flower in a bowl that at first looks great, but then is sickening to see since it will never fully bloom.
Though after that pregnancy was over, Dr. Walker assured me that I am fine. "Honey, you two are where I'm trying to get most of the couples that see me to be," she said.
I was sitting in her office in the West Tower Medical Building of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills for the follow-up appointment after my D & C, which I still wasn't really sure what that stood for. "Dice and cut" is all I could think of, like B & E for "breaking and entering," because that is how it felt.
I was surrounded by a swarm of baby pictures on the bookcases, on the desk, on the walls, all the successful fruits of her and her patients' labor. I looked at Dr. Walker. She looked as if she could play one on TV—that pretty. Blonde and sweet. A face you want to come to, like the Giant Casting Director in the sky had ordained her calling. And she was a real doctor, after all, renowned, even. So it was easy to believe her.
I left her office, and I was fine.
I got outside, got in my car, and was sitting stuck on Third Street, a thoroughfare that not so long ago used to be if not barely used then at least Plan C for how to get west or east, but now is almost as bad as Beverly. I wished for the thousandth time that about a million people in L.A. would leave when suddenly it hit me that the city's population was not going to increase by one next summer because of my husband and me, since we were no longer going to have this baby.
And I was sort of shocked, as if I was finally understanding that the pregnancy was over. Not that I didn't know it was over, but the appointment for the D & C had kept it alive in a (okay, major denial) sort of way since they were related to the baby. But now there weren't any more reasons to see Dr. Walker, until another pregnancy. And when would that be?
Immediately, I could hear my mother's voice in my head when I told her it was over. "Oh, Fiona, honey. That's just terrible. How are you holding up?" Even though my mother was all the way down in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the same home that I grew up in, she could have been phoning from inside my body. Her voice has always sounded like that to me, as if I've been carrying her around in me my whole life, like some terribly odd and inappropriate pregnancy that I'll never deliver.
"There is nothing worse than a miscarriage," my mother went on. "Not that I ever had one. Or would have. I got my family's good Connor genes, but your father's sisters, as you know, each had multiple miscarriages. It's a wonder you have any cousins on his side at all. Well, you'll just try again; that's all. And it'll be fine. I'm sure of it. Though why you waited so long in the first place I'll never understand."
I had planned to move the phone repeatedly away from and back to my ear while she spoke the way I have for the past few years, sort of like one of the arm exercises I do at the gym, but my mother's opening lines were so promising that I got hooked in and listened to the whole goddamn thing.The Safety of Secrets. Copyright � by DeLaune Michel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Raised in south Louisiana, DeLauné Michel has worked as an actor and is the founding producer of Spoken Interludes, a reading series in New York and Los Angeles. Her short fiction has won awards. This is her first novel.
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Delaune Michel creates a captivating tale in The Safety of Secrets. Fiona and Patricia have been friends since grade school in Louisiana. Their friendship strengthens and follows them to Los Angeles where Fiona and Patricia become actresses. The pressure of Hollywood life and a secret threaten the friendship and what they have struggled to accomplish. Fiona and Patricia are forced to look upon their friendship, relationships with others, and themselves. The story goes between present day and the past, allowing the reader to witness the heart wrenching past of the two girls. Their pact to keep the secret begins to unravel and the threat to their long-term friendship is all too real. In my opinion, this is a real life look into the characteristics of the bond of friendship. It is something we all face at some point in our lives. I found Delaune's description of the South and Los Angeles to be right on. All in all this is a great story of the roller coaster relationship of friends.
Meeting Delaune Michel at her book-signing was like making a new friend. And reading her book, "The Safety of Secrets," was like making another. The story is told in present tense by a first person narrator called Fiona - and no; there is really no other way it could be told. Fiona is the reader's new friend, narrating her life story, just as it happens. When we first meet, Fiona is just finding out that she's pregnant. Of course, the first person she tells is her best friend. We, the readers, are probably third or fourth on her list, since her husband has to be second. And we have to keep it secret because - well, she'll explain. The trouble is, the best friend doesn't react quite how Fiona hopes. And while Fiona's telling us this, she's also saying how they met and why they're best friends. In fact, a lot of what Fiona reveals is told while telling something else. It's not confusing; it's just how she is. She gets side-tracked and wanders off in random directions, but she always leads the way back and makes her point before the end of the chapter, and she always sounds real. I like the way the chapters are self-contained - convenient when I have to stop and walk the dog, cook dinner, or find the shirt that I forgot to wash - and natural, like conversations with a friend. I like the way the focus in each chapter is always something that's just happening, giving the story a real immediacy. Fiona's an actress who lives and works in Hollywood. It's exciting, and it's a world I'll never know, so I feel awed to have a friend describe it to me. I forgive the tangents and diversions because it's such fun being Fiona's friend. And when I begin to suspect she's not terribly sympathetic - maybe a bit self-centered - when I begin to wonder what she's saying to her friends about me - that's when Delaune so cleverly also lets me recognize Fiona's need, and the way the words and stories are hiding secrets she hasn't yet told. As a reader, or friend, I start to understand Fiona just as she begins to understand herself. I feel like I know what she's going through, and I want to help her out. But she'll never listen to me I know, so I read on to an end that's satisfying, true to life and true to what the reader wants for her. I remember Delaune saying she didn't know how the novel would end when she started to write. I believe her. After all, Fiona couldn't possibly have known, and it's Fiona who's telling the tale. Nobody's pulling her strings to make things happen. But she's pregnant, and secrets have a way of forcing their way into the light at such a time. "The Safety of Secrets" is a very believable book, an enjoyable read, a thought-provoking concept, and a tale of everyday friendship, secrets and courage. I'm glad I read it. And I'm glad I met Fiona (and Delaune).
Can't-put-it-down readable with a secret at its core, this book is a sensitive, canny portrayal of a decades-long friendship. It works as a great beach read because of Michel's funny insights into the Hollywood actors scene, but like an iceberg, it has unexpected solidity under the surface. It's depth snuck up on me. It's an atypical coming-of-age story in that rather than simply covering the familiar territory of the jump from girl-to-woman it explores the maturity that is required to jump from young-woman-to-mother. The crisis in the main character Fiona's relationship with her childhood friend Patricia, coming at the same time as the birth of Fiona's first child, enables Fiona to step into her true female adulthood--to access the maturity required to be a stable and loving example to her baby. Having witnessed Fiona's journey into unconditional love and forgiveness, we are assured that her child will be protected from at least some of the pain and tragedy that Patricia and Fiona endured. I loved it from the beginning to the sweet and moving last page. Read it!
*kisses u moaning *
Walks in...I'm so hor.ny master please be on
In the same vein as Firefly Lane and Beaches, THE SAFETY OF SECRETS is a true to life story of the enduring friendship of two women. It tells how their childhood bond is tested as they mature and their values and loyalties are formed and lives change. Fiona and Patricia meet in first grade in Louisiana and their family lifestyles are different as Fiona comes from a ¿normal¿ family with two parents and a sister, while Patricia is raised by a single mother who has an older son from a previous marriage. Both of the girls¿ youth is greatly influenced by their mothers with Fiona¿s mother being abusive, while Patricia¿s mom neglects her. The girls experience a trauma young in their lives and they agree to keep it a secret for life. Fiona and Patricia grow up and both pursue acting careers, and they are both successful in their own way. However, Fiona marries and has a baby while having a moderately successful and steady television career compared to Patricia¿s wild celebrity life filled with all the bells and whistles the paparazzi is crazy for. The chapters alternate between the past as children and their current lives as adults, and thus the story slowly unfolds little by little until the ¿secret¿ that is alluded to finally is revealed. However, the way it happens is what brings us to the climax of the story and forces Fiona and Patricia to face the truth of that secret and the ramifications it has played in their lives for years. Fiona comes to realize how much the secret and her mother intertwined to make her the person she is today. Will Fiona¿s and Patricia¿s friendship be able to endure this explosive revelation? How will this affect their current relationships and especially the ones with their mothers? The Safety of Secrets is relatable and one that will have the reader taking sides and staying glued to the story until the end to find out what the secret is. The reader will want to find out what the secret does to Fiona¿s and Patricia¿s adult lives and those they now care about. I found the story to be an interesting, well written, believable tale of two women and their friendship.
Maybe it's because I'm in the midst of deciding what to do about one of my own old relationships that this book hit me so hard. Like Fiona in the book, I'm struggling with a friendship that has emerged as a two-headed hydra--and that's what Michel gets at so trenchantly: just how difficult it is to maintain a long-standing friendship and to keep that monster the ego from taking over and sucking every bit of air out of the garden. Oh, and the mother is quite a piece of work, too. Michel is a pull-no-punches kind of writer with a terrific way with a metaphor. SAFETY OF SECRETS reads like a thriller, the pacing is so taut, and in fact there is a very real crime committed within its pages. In Michel's hands this scene is both subtle and crushing. A lessor writer would have yielded to its prurient potential Michel instead reveals her power to pull us deep into the character's feelings. A compelling read.
They met a quarter of a century ago as first graders in Lake Charles, Louisiana over a pair of socks. Fiona Marshall and Patricia Woods became friends with both eluding odious mothers. Whereas Fiona¿s mother was abusive, Patricia¿s was negligent. They left Bayou country soon after high school to make it in Hollywood.---------------- Each was married and divorced they survived the Hollywood night culture that has destroyed so many young. Both share a secret that no one else knows until now. Twenty-five years of best friend sisterhood may end with that secret revealed. Fiona and Patricia reexamine their friendship, other relationships over the years, and the difficult realities that have surfaced for them.----------------- The story line moves back and forth between the present and past in Southern California and their childhood in Louisiana as events today have the lead females looking back in time. Fiona and Patricia are fully developed characters, but it is their deep friendship forged back in elementary school that Michael DeLaune focuses on. Though loving best friends who would do anything for the other, with warmth and caring comes hurts and anger. Healthy relationships have a down side to them even when they are mostly loving, upbeat, and supportive. THE SAFETY OF SECRETS is a deep character study that will leave readers examining their strongest relationships.------------ Harriet Klausner
The stee arrows come fewer