"Looking back, I wonder whether our holiday had been to blame. Two weeks of unexpectedly perfect weather at Easter, when the girls had gambolled like lambs in the fields surrounding the farm where we had stayed, and even Drew had lost the pinched look he so often wore. His stride had lengthened, his shoulders had relaxed, and he just looked... content."
'My Husband's Lie' by Emma Davies is a mildly dark family drama that centers around the main character Thea, her husband Drew, and two children as they embark on a bold move to free themselves of the constraints of the big city life and corporate work environment.
It's a feeling many of us have had or will experience in our lifetimes. That point when you tire of working to make others wealthy at the expense of your own best interests and decide to take a risk, to branch out on your own. More and more, it's becoming a common narrative in our society.
When Thea discovers the home she spent some of her happiest years in happens to be on the market, her fond memories foster an excitement and determination to return to her roots. Having begun her life in Pevensky House, with her then best friend and now husband right next door, their families abruptly moved away while the pair were still children.
"Seeing her on that holiday reminded me of the Thea I first met, the one who walked barefoot everywhere, the one whose fits of giggles exploded out of nowhere. It made me realise how beautiful she was, how much I loved her. And her work? It came to life during those two weeks, the best she'd ever produced - winning the commission was evidence enough of that. So how could I possibly hold her back, just when she had found her wings."
What starts out as an earnest change for the betterment of their lives, soon clouds with uncertainty. She and Drew seemingly drift apart and people go out of their way to avoid her.
After discovering an unexpected secret tucked into her childhood hiding place, she's faced with more questions than answers and a growing sense of unease. Meanwhile, the other citizens of the small town turn against her as more secrets and accusations come to light.
This novel definitely touches on some uncomfortable topics.. abuse/assault, destructive lies, and so forth.. but I assure you that it doesn't go into much detail in those regards. It's not an exploitative book. It's almost more of a study as to the effects, not just of the original harm caused by such things. But also the ripples stretching outward over the years beyond due to the lingering weight of keeping the secrets. So many more lives are changed by one act than we might at first believe.
Watching characters struggle with the accusations is hard enough, but the feelings of betrayal, loss, and disillusionment sit even more heavily on them. Thea's pretty relatable, she's hurt and angry. She lashes out, sometimes in stupid ways, which are completely understandable. But all that aside, it's kind of hard not to feel sorry for some of the targets of that anger.
"How can you ever grow if you don't have roots?"
At the core of the family, Drew and Thea have a really lovely relationship. It's warm and supportive. They like to say sometimes that they "don't know where one of them ends and the other begins." And it's especially difficult to watch that conflict between them because of the usual nature of that relationship. Plus, their girls are also quite darling and you really just want to see everything work out for them all.
I will say, I saw the reveal coming before the foreshadowing was really at play, but some of that is instinct as to how an author writes. I don't feel like there were any telegraphing issues of note or anything like that.
My only disappointment is probably the idyllic wrap-up. There is a particularly tense moment toward the end of the story that I felt could have been well served with a different conclusion, but it's all well-structured and moves at a good pace. I just like a little more destruction in my stories than most.
Definitely a worthwhile read if you are a fan of mysteries or contemporary dramas.