Book Review: The Language of Secrets – Dianne Dixon

Title: The Language of Secrets
Author: Dianne Dixon
ISBN: 9780385530637
Pages: 272
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

Comments

  1. SOLD! I thought this looked like a good book, but after reading your review, I definitely want to! I love “book clubish” books!

  2. SOLD! I thought this looked like a good book, but after reading your review, I definitely want to! I love “book clubish” books!

  3. You’ve got me wanting to read this, too. Any book that makes me want to talk about it is good, even though I’ve been known to drive Carl crazy with them!

  4. You’ve got me wanting to read this, too. Any book that makes me want to talk about it is good, even though I’ve been known to drive Carl crazy with them!

  5. You’ve done a good sales job on me too. I love a book that is rich with discussion topics. And the premise of him finding his own gravestone? That is unnerving. I’m writing it down on The List.

  6. You’ve done a good sales job on me too. I love a book that is rich with discussion topics. And the premise of him finding his own gravestone? That is unnerving. I’m writing it down on The List.

  7. Add me to the group of converts. I love a secrets story and the idea that he goes to the graveyard and sees his own stone is weird, but compelling. Off to add it to the wishlist!

  8. Add me to the group of converts. I love a secrets story and the idea that he goes to the graveyard and sees his own stone is weird, but compelling. Off to add it to the wishlist!

  9. Count me in on the “sold” list! I just added this book to my ever-growing TBR.

  10. Count me in on the “sold” list! I just added this book to my ever-growing TBR.

  11. I have this on my shelves, you’ve helped inspire me to pick it up sooner rather than later.

  12. I have this on my shelves, you’ve helped inspire me to pick it up sooner rather than later.

  13. I am sure they are nothing alike in fact, but the way you said the book deals with the question of whether finding out the past really matters to who you are really reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The idea that you make yourself into who you are, and it doesn’t matter where you come from.

    However, the whole quest (this time justified, I feel) about “closure” also reminds me of the Turgeon book I just read in which the character leaves a really happy life to go find “closure” from her past. I don’t think that is always necessary.

    Ok, long comment- I’ll stop here!

  14. I am sure they are nothing alike in fact, but the way you said the book deals with the question of whether finding out the past really matters to who you are really reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The idea that you make yourself into who you are, and it doesn’t matter where you come from.

    However, the whole quest (this time justified, I feel) about “closure” also reminds me of the Turgeon book I just read in which the character leaves a really happy life to go find “closure” from her past. I don’t think that is always necessary.

    Ok, long comment- I’ll stop here!

  15. Great review!! I really like your blog!

  16. Great review!! I really like your blog!

  17. I admit: this cover did nothing for me. I was expecting some Jodi Picoult-style mother with child sob story, but the synopsis sounds amazing. I love a good thought-provoking novel, so I’ll definitely be reading this one.

  18. I admit: this cover did nothing for me. I was expecting some Jodi Picoult-style mother with child sob story, but the synopsis sounds amazing. I love a good thought-provoking novel, so I’ll definitely be reading this one.

  19. Heavy questions, but light and easy to read. I would love to experience that. It is nice to read about difficult issues where the writing has some levity. It makes reading much easier to take.

  20. Heavy questions, but light and easy to read. I would love to experience that. It is nice to read about difficult issues where the writing has some levity. It makes reading much easier to take.

  21. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. You’ve made me really want to read it!

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  22. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. You’ve made me really want to read it!

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  23. This sounds really intriguing. Going to have to add it to the wish list.

  24. This sounds really intriguing. Going to have to add it to the wish list.

  25. I listed this as must-read in March and I’m glad to know that I was right!

  26. I listed this as must-read in March and I’m glad to know that I was right!

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