Monday, May 7, 2012

'The Secrets They Kept' by Joanne Tombrako

Reviewer: Stephanie
4 stars

Summary from Amazon:
Every family has its secrets. Elena Poulous knew that. As an attorney she witnessed such deception every day. But she never thought her Greek-American family was like everybody else’s, not until the Saturday morning, the police knock on the door of her New York City apartment and inform her of the death of Yannis Poulous, a man she had never heard of, a man who has listed her as his next of kin.

A box of old letters she unearths in his Brooklyn apartment help to unravel the mystery of who he is. But the biggest part of the puzzle - why everyone in her family, especially her mother Kristina refuses to talk about him - proves the most difficult to discover.
The Secrets They Kept is a multi-generational story, of cultural and religious influences, of secrets kept and discovered, all in the name of love and of family.

The book's premise looked very interesting to me. It really did exceed my expectations and I enjoyed delving into the secrets of the Poulous family. The book was written and well researched. I enjoyed learning more about the Greek Orthodox beliefs and practices. The Greek traditions were richly represented, and my mouth watered most times when the author mentioned the delicious Greek food!

The characters were complex yet relatable. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship between Kristina and Elena. Their relationship was particularly dysfunctional. Elena's realization that she acted more like her mother than she realized and how that affected her current relationships was well-written.

There were times when I wanted to throttle Elena and times I wanted to hug her. She was so wrapped up in protecting herself from love that she was missing out on being loved.

The secrets mentioned in the book aren't earth shattering. It's really how they affect each of the characters. They become larger than life and end up changing the way that the whole family relates to one another.

The author uses a series of flashbacks to describe events that happened to the characters as they related to Yannis. I enjoyed the historical times explored during these flashbacks and wished I could have spent more time there.

Once the reader is aware of Kristina's secret especially I did feel like the plot began to lag as Kristina repeatedly shut down and refused to talk to Elena about Yannis. The first few times were understandable, but the longer it went on the less patient I was with Kristina and the process of revealing the secret to Elena.

However, the relational redemption that Kristina and Elena experienced more than made up for the slight plot lag in my opinion.

This was an enjoyable book. Recommended!

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