Just hours after Alice Hayward is baptized, she’s found strangled to death in her home. Sitting a few feet away from Alice’s body is her also-dead husband George, his brains blown out against the living room window in what appears to be a murder-suicide. And so starts SECRETS OF EDEN, a really hard-to-put-down and engaging page turner by Chris Bohjalian the author of MIDWIVES and THE DOUBLE BIND.

SECRETS OF EDEN wastes no time setting up the story and leaving the residents of small town Haverville, Vermont (and the reader) left to try and understand what would cause upstanding community business leader George Hayward to snap so violently and inflict such pain and devastation, all the while leaving behind a 15 year old daughter, Katie. Yet there were a few people who knew what happened behind the closed doors of the Hayward home and it’s Bohjalian who utilizes four of these individuals to tell the story of their tragic ending. First up is Reverend Stephen Drew, a trusted confidante, aware of the pain and strife Alice encountered. Second is Catherine Benincasa, Haverville’s resident attorney called in to investigate the deaths (and already aware of the restraining order Alice had requested just months before her passing). Spiritual self-help author du jour Heather Laurent, herself an orphan due to domestic violence, enters the fray with hopes of supporting Katie. And finally, thoroughly devastated Katie herself.

Employing this multi-narrative strategy to tell the story could have been a mess, but proves otherwise due to Bohjalian’s ability to believably create four wholly unique individuals with different and often conflicting points of view. As each narrator spoke in first person, it established an intimacy that had me feeling like I, too, was a fellow resident or friend listening in and maybe even participating in the gossip that comes with such a scandal. I was also able to see the blind spots and gaps in each of their perspectives, as an effective first-person narrative allows you to do, and slowly piece together what I thought happened between Alice and George.

Now, I won’t tell you if I was successful in determining the conclusion. I will tell you that SECRETS OF EDEN was a quick read, perfect for a lazy summer weekend when you want to shut off the TV and delve into a story rich with character development and full of intrigue.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction