At 11 years old, my daughter is officially a “tween”. I love that word. In case you don’t know its origins, ‘tween is actually a contraction of “between”, as in between the ages of 10 and 12. It’s true—I looked it up. According to dictionary.com, a ‘tween is somebody who is too old to be a child (sniffle) and too young to be a teenager (yay!).
If you have a ‘tween, you’re probably starting to experience the same sort of challenges as I am. My daughter wants independence, but I’m reluctant to grant it. My head knows that she deserves some, yet my heart cries for the child that I’m losing. This struggle, of course, causes tension in our house. And if you’re thinking, “Just wait until she’s a teenager when she really has an attitude,” trust me, I’ve already heard it from about a hundred other well-intentioned people.
My husband and I didn’t have an easy time having children. Like many couples, we struggled with infertility. After several heartbreaking miscarriages and unsuccessful fertility treatments, we made the painful decision to stop trying for a second child. That said, we are so thankful for the daughter we do have, which is what I remind myself about every single time she talks back to me. ‘Tweens… Sigh.
Infertility can damage the bond between even the most devoted of spouses. The constant cycle-monitoring and sex-on-demand, plus the tumultuous ride between false hope and devastating reality, can be too much to bear. I stood in line for that roller coaster, but, once on it, hated the rush.
Elizabeth Gray, in The Secrets We Keep, adores her husband Mike. He is handsome and thoughtful, and charming enough that she moved from sunny Australia to not-so-sunny England just to be with him. They have everything a young couple in love could possible want—except a child.
Desperate after numerous unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, Elizabeth and Mike spend most of their savings on multiple IVF procedures. The constant negative results nearly destroy Elizabeth’s sanity, and she finally decides that enough is enough. Heartbroken, Elizabeth and Mike grieve for the child they’ll never hold.
Determined to find strength in their renewed relationship, Elizabeth settles into what becomes a normal, childless routine… until Mike doesn’t return home one night.
Drowned while saving the life of a 19-year-old woman named Kate, Mike becomes a hero—post-mortem—and Elizabeth becomes a widow. Her grief over their infertility in no way prepared her for the devastation she’d suffer after the loss of her husband. All she had wanted at one time was a child; now she’d give anything just to have Mike back.
But questions arise as the days pass, and Kate’s family (while grateful that Mike saved their daughter) wants answers. Why was Mike by the pond that night? Why does their daughter refuse to talk about what happened? Who is leaving flowers in Elizabeth’s garden?
After everything she and Mike had been through together, Elizabeth believes whole-heartedly in his devotion to her. They didn’t keep any secrets, so what is it about Mike that makes everyone else so quick to judge?
The Secrets We Keep begs to ask how far we’ll go to discover the truth, and, in the end, if it is really worth knowing.
You know what they say about ignorance.
Stephanie Butland has written two books about her experience with cancer. The Secrets We Keep is her first novel. Sourcebooks Landmark, 2015.