Title: The Language of Secrets
Author: Dianne Dixon
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Justin Fisher is returning to California after over a decade away from home. He decides it’s time to start speaking to his parents again, but when he goes to their house, someone else is living there. He goes to the nursing home his father has apparently been living at, only to discover that he passed away a few weeks ago. Justin then proceeds to the cemetery to visit his parents’ graves, only to discover that there is a third headstone with them – his own. According to the grave, he died when he was just four years old. Shocked and bewildered, Justin embarks on a journey to discover who he really is.
The Language of Secrets is about those hidden aspects of our pasts, the ones that we’ve been repressing either consciously or unconsciously. Justin realizes there is a lot about his past he doesn’t know about or understand when he sees that headstone. He (understandably) becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to him and who he really is. The question the novel raises is whether it matters – does where we come from matter to who we are now? If Justin abandoned the quest and accepted the fact that he’ll never understand his past, won’t he still be the same person he is now (as his wife points out)?
However, it’s also about the pain and sadness of losing a child. As Dixon shows us, that’s not something a mother ever really recovers from. Of course, day to day living becomes easier and in time, you come to terms with your grief. But the sadness and despair will always lurk in the background. Dixon convincingly depicts the anguish associated with such a traumatic event.
There is a lot of angst in this novel, especially with Justin’s mother’s storyline. Her life is painful and dramatic, almost to the point it’s overdone. However, Justin’s reserved and emotionally distant storyline balances hers out and keeps the story from being overwhelmed by the drama present in Justin’s mother’s life.
However, the reader can’t really blame Justin’s mother for her actions – after all, a central theme of the novel is about our choices. How do our choices define us? If someone chooses the wrong path, can they pull themselves out of it and pick a different one? It all goes back to what I talked about earlier. What defines us in the grand scheme of things? Is it our past, our choices, or a little bit of both? Can we choose?
The Language of Secrets is a thought provoking novel that will have readers itching to discuss what they read. Despite the heavy questions, it’s a light book that’s easy to read. This would make a great novel for book clubs.