Reviewed by Sheryl Root
The Secret of Us by Roxanne Henke
"The Secret of Us will not disappoint."
Roxanne Henke, author of the acclaimed Coming Home to Brewster series, gives a realistic and compelling look at a marriage taken for granted in her newest book, The Secret of Us.
Donnie and Laura Dunn have been married 23 years. They have a very good life and, to the outside world, it seems they have the perfect marriage. But the everyday busyness and stresses of life have come between them—replacing the closeness they had in the early years of their marriage when they worked together to build Donnie’s advertising agency. Now, they hardly see each other and when they do, Laura finds herself feeling more like Donnie’s secretary than his wife. As they prepare for their only daughter Stasha’s wedding, Laura begins to wonder if there is anything left of their marriage worth holding onto.
Donnie’s job keeps him constantly busy, but it’s important to him to provide for his family. If he’s not courting new clients, then his team is creating new campaigns for existing clients. Even during his limited free time, his mind is rarely far from work. Donnie knows this is a difficult business to be in and still have a personal life. Most of his employees are either single, or divorced like his partner Matt. But Donnie knows that, no matter what, he can always count on Laura to be there for him.
Stasha, meanwhile, feels like her life is in limbo—caught between childhood and adulthood. She can’t wait to begin her real life with her fiancé Josh. Stasha hopes both of them will find employment outside of small town Carlton. She doesn’t want to end up stuck in her hometown, living as her mom did—always waiting for her dad to come home. Her dad is the one she wants to emulate—talented, creative, hardworking. However, now that the time has come for her to grow up and prove herself, she is scared to death.
Roxanne chooses perfectly how to tell the Dunn’s story—each chapter is written from either Laura, Donnie or Stasha’s viewpoint. What better way to understand the sensitivities and intricacies of relationship issues than to see the same situations from different vantage points. The reality is that disappointments and difficulties in a relationship always have more than one side, and the empathy for each character this storytelling technique gives is ideal.
Faith is subtle but ever-present. While Laura attends bible study periodically, neither Donnie, Laura, or Stasha have made God a high priority in their lives. They are just too busy to pay much attention to Him. However, His still, small voice is persistent, and eventually they each begin to recognize it.
Good fiction is not only entertaining, it can be life changing. Universal truths revealed through characters, even when their lives are very different from your own, have the power to bring those “aha” moments into each of our lives. This is how I felt about The Secret of Us. I, the perennial multi-tasker, saw myself all too clearly when it finally dawned on Donnie how much of his life he had missed by not being fully present each moment.
“Laura often told me she felt she was dragging me through life. I never understood what she meant until tonight. I’d sat in the bleachers for Stasha’s elementary school programs. Cringed through junior high band concerts. I’d gone along. Reluctantly. My body had been there, but my mind had been a million other places.”
Ouch! Conviction hurts, but it smarts less when revealed in a wonderful story. Whether you’re single or married, male or female, The Secret of Us will not disappoint.
Sheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.