Title: The Secret of Joy
Author: Melissa Senate
Release Date: November 17, 2009
Publisher: Downtown Press
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Rebecca Strand’s father is dying of pancreatic cancer and there is nothing she can do to help him. So when he asks her to try on her boyfriend Michael’s mother’s wedding dress because it’s the only chance he’ll get to see her in one, she complies with his request without a single word of protest. But what Rebecca isn’t expecting is her father’s deathbed confession while she’s wearing that wedding dress – that her father had an affair and had an illegitimate daughter that he’d never met named Joy. All of a sudden, Rebecca is faced with the prospect of a sister, and all that comes with it.
Chick lit has been in a rut lately. Some say that it is disappearing, merging into women’s fiction. While that isn’t necessarily true, chick lit on the whole has been less than impressive recently – this coming from someone who really enjoys it. There are some major exceptions, but the entire genre seems to be suffering from overused storylines, tired plot devices, and stereotypical characters. But those who say that chick lit is dead, and that new things can’t come out of this genre haven’t read Melissa Senate’s The Secret of Joy.
When I think of The Secret of Joy, the first thing that comes to mind is “fresh.” This book is so refreshing and new. It’s different than the other chick lit out there. Melissa Senate doesn’t rely on tired clichés in order to tell her story. Rebecca is a wonderful character. She’s not necessarily broken, but she isn’t quite sure what she wants out of life. She’s not certain where her relationship with her boyfriend, Michael, stands – all she knows is that it’s time for a change. She is lost and confused in many ways, and she turns to Joy for help.
What I liked best about The Secret of Joy, and Rebecca in particular, was that she was honest. As I was reading the book, something would happen and I would think, “Rebecca isn’t going to be honest about this and that’s going to be a major plot point in the story.” And Senate proved me wrong every time. Not only did she defy my expectations at every turn, she also made me love Rebecca. Even when Rebecca makes mistakes, she’s up front and clear about them. Senate created tension within the plot organically, rather than forcing it in through overused plot devices such as dishonesty.
I really loved The Secret of Joy. I thought it was creative, well-written, and it had me hooked from beginning to end. Melissa Senate both shows she is a master of chick lit, as well as breathes new life into the genre with this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of chick lit, I encourage you to give The Secret of Joy a chance. Melissa Senate might surprise you with this one.