Looking back in time, I realise that we harbour a lot of secrets in our hearts. Some that we have shared with people very dear to us, and some that will remain in our hearts touching no other soul. Reading the blurb of this book had me drawn to it as it talks about two friends, their past and the secrets between them. I read this advance reader’s copy and we at Meraki Post are delighted to be doing an interview with the Author where she talks about her debut novel, herself and about writing. Read on to know what I think of the book.
The cover has a lavender coloured background with two girls turned away, set in a grassy area. The book is published by Source Books, and the cover touches upon the varied elements in the plot. The story is about two best friends who at one point are inseparable but drift away due to certain instances. It is set in a small town along the Mississippi, and story is narrated as entries in one of the girl’s lavender coloured dairy.
The hidden away faces and the posture of the girls are a very subtle yet meaningful representation of how we may see a person all our lives but their real identity is hidden from us. Instead of opting for a friendly posture, there is distance and a certain sadness about them that is the essence of the story.
Julie is a single mother, living in New York. She meets August who is the boyfriend of her best friend Reba who dies ten years ago. Reba (or Rebecca) is her childhood friend tracing back to her younger days where she lived in Lawrence Mill with her aunt Molly and cousin Toby. These are the most important characters in the book other than Nell, their friendly neighbour, Reba’s parents and Julie’s ex-husband.
Julie is an actress and a tour guide in New York. She lives with her daughter and has left everything behind her due to certain instances in the past. She continues to live with the guilt that she killed her best friend Reba, and somehow got away with it. While Reba’s death is considered a suicide, only Julie knows the real truth which drives her away from her hometown. She is now faced with August, who was Reba’s boyfriend and he seeks Julie’s help to find Reba’s dairy—the one she wanted to give him at the time of her death.
Rebecca and Julie are inseparable from the moment Julie came to live with her Aunt at Lawrence Mill. Julie lives with her Aunt who seems indifferent to her presence and her cousin Toby, who harbours no love for her or her friend. She lives next to her best friend Reba’s house. She is a simple Southern girl, and between the two of them Reba is the innocent, invisible one while Julie chooses to be more bold and flamboyant in her ways.
Both friends work at a local flower store, where Reba meets August. Life takes a turn in such a way that there is distance built between the friends and August becomes Reba’s secret. Her best friend has no knowledge of the happenings in her life, until one day Reba takes a deadly fall into the river. Julie, too drunk to remember anything is told by Toby that she pushed Reba to her death. Julie leaves Lawrence Mill with her guilt for company and leads a life that is heavily influenced by her best friend’s death. August finds her, and urges her to accompany him to find Reba’s dairy. Julie doesn’t know that Reba had a dairy, and together they embark on finding it.
Reading Reba’s dairy uncovers a lot of secrets that she harboured in her heart before she died. Was August the only secret Reba had? Julie discovers truths of her best friend’s life that she never could have fathomed. Did she know Reba at all? Both these Southern girls had their own secrets to hide from the world, and this book takes one on a journey to unravel those, giving the reader a glimpse of life and relationships. It also shows how the death of one person breaks people who love them in the most irreparable way, leaving a hole that can never be filled.
Written from a third person’s perspective, the book is divided into various chapters that talk about Julie’s and Reba’s life. The past is documented in the form of entries into the dairy and some are memories that each character thinks back to, making it an interesting narrative instead of a monologue. The language used is simple with no local influences making it a simple, but slightly impersonal account.
The style of narration adds an interesting dimension to one’s experience of reading the book. Apart from this, the secrets unearthed through the book make it an interesting read as they are quite unexpected. It shows each person in varied perspectives, as if it were peeling away layers of their personalities to finally reveal what lies in the core. It starts with the perspective people have of the lead characters, leading to the hidden facets of their personalities and culminating with their real selves that are no longer hidden under masks of pretence.
It touches upon the mentality of small town people, and how their behaviour is towards new people on the block, racism, mingling of coloured people with the whites, KKK etc.
Often when books are based in certain regions, the narrative is infused with the local slang or pronunciations which make the set up a lot more authentic, this is one thing that lacks in this narrative.
In all fairness, I did not expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. On the onset it seemed like the documentation of the friendship of two friends who are as different as chalk and cheese, but the development of characters really surprised me. Characters that I had not expected to be important slowly paint the plot an interesting shade with their presence making it all the more intriguing.
There are moments when you are torn between liking a person and hating them—and it is at this point, that you realise that the characters have been made as realistic as they come and painted in the most beautiful way where there is no elevation of depreciation of their being. They are as they are- laden with secrets, broken, a little sly and still harbouring a degree of goodness.
Who do I recommend it to?
It sways between being young adult, and adult fiction and revolves around friendships and relationships. It makes for a great read for someone who enjoys books that are built on real characters talking about real life issues and circumstances.
Filled with so much expectation that things will only get better and better when sometimes, the best is already happening and you don’t even know it yet.
The thing is, people really want the truth, no matter how much they pretend otherwise.
One of the most difficult things for artists is to do what’s necessary to fully understand who they are, to realise their own unique fears, to know why they feel the things they feel. To wrap their arms around their own desires. The best, most authentic way to become someone else, or to write something life-changing, is to know yourself.
Source Books is currently running a Rafflecopter Giveaway of Secrets of Southern Girls! You may not want to miss this one!
Also, if you’d like to buy the book, here are the links!