Barbara's Reviews > Secrets of Eden

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian
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's review
Sep 08, 2009

it was ok
Recommended to Barbara by: CHRIS BOHJALIAN!

I have been an avid follower of Chris Bohjalian's writing for a long time. It pains me to say that this novel was a disappointment to me. My first introduction to this author was "Skeletons at the Feast", which so impressed me that I followed it with many more of his boooks. This could not compare with that first book, or others. The story weaves around the apparent murder/ suicide in a small town in Vermont. It is a tale of wife battering and alcoholism and the effects of these abuses on family, friends and the community.

The novel is divided into sections with the story narrated by four different characters,the pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith, the DA, a popular author and the daughter of the deceased couple. These people were, for the most part believable, with some exceptions. The acclaimed author, whose specialty was angels, was an unlikable annoyance for me. Her role seemed extraneous and only served as an useless distraction for certain characters. In fact, as I further analyze my reaction to this novel, I realize that her presence is the factor which caused my negative reactions to "The Secrets of Eden". The disillusioned pastor could have been further expanded, although his personna was well described. The DA was a tough, unbending woman. The teen-aged daughter's grief was vividly portrayed and her voice rang true.

Bohjalian's narrative is often compelling, always clearly descriptive and well researched. Although I had some glimmers of the conclusion, he withheld the answers to the mystery until the final pages with an unexpected twist. It is clear to me, one who has visited Vermont many times, that this author knows and loves his home. His vivid descriptions of the scenery, the foliage and the ambiance of this beautiful state certainly shine through!
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Reading Progress

September 8, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
March 11, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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Kelly As always, Barbara, a terrific review! Strangely enough, even knowing that you were disappointed with the book, your review has me intrigued and makes me yearn to read it. It is on my very looooong TBR ASAP list!

Elizabeth (Alaska) I read only The Double Bind. Disappointed enough with it that I think I won't be picking up any more Bohjalian. Too many good books to read.

Barbara I have sometimes reacted to authors in that way, but Bohjalian has written some wonderful books. As I mentioned, "Skeletons at the Feast" was excellent!

Kelly Midwives was a really good one too.

Barbara Kelly wrote: "Midwives was a really good one too."

Yes, I liked that too- partly because I could relate to it professionally. I also liked "Buffalo Soldier" very much. It did not seem to get as much attention as some of his others, but it struck a chord with me.

Kelly I looked up The Buffalo Soldier, looks good! What did you think of Water Witches and Trans-siter Radio? I've only read Midwives and The Double-Bind so far.

Barbara I plan to read WW, but I don't think that I will read TR, which is about transsexuality. It just doesn't interest me as a fiction for me.

Kelly Understandable! Transexuality usually weirds me out (no offense meant to anyone), but I think I'll try the book.

message 9: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Nice review Barbara. I keep meaning to read one of his books but it looks like I shouldn't start with this one.

Barbara I agree. I think that you should start with "Skeletons".

message 11: by Debby (new)

Debby Thanks for your very enlightening review! As someone who also has read and loved other Bohjalian books, I look forward to reading the Secrets of Eden.

Barbara I still feel "bummed out" after reading the book. He is one of my favorite authors.I'm not going to give up on him. Part of my distaste was the lengthy angel thing. He is such a good guy too. Did you see my little communications with him recently?

message 13: by Debby (new)

Debby No I haven't. I definitely would like to read that. Was it on his blog?

Barbara It wasn't in his blog. The last one I got was on Fri., 3/26 in response to his ratings of a book "The Unquiet Dead: A psychologist's...".

message 15: by Maria (last edited Apr 19, 2010 05:00PM) (new)

Maria Barbara, you write such clear, concise reviews! I love them! Now you know I've only read Midwives and am not particularly a great fan, but now I'm really intrigued by the transsexual one, as I'm so interested in the topic. Maybe I'll look for that one. What is it, Transiter Radio?

message 16: by Barbara (last edited Apr 20, 2010 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Barbara Transister Radio- I haven't read that one! Read Skeletons at the Feast( his best) and Buffalo Soldier. The latter is profound and touching.

message 17: by Maria (new)

Maria Okay.

message 18: by Debby (new)

Debby What's up with the previous post? It's totally inappropriate! Flag it!

Barbara Thanks! I noticed. This has happened several times lately.

message 20: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Barbara was it more spam?

Barbara Yes!! I have been involved in a discussion about this in Goodreads Feedback. They advise to flag the bugger and they will eradicate them. Apparently there have been a few.

message 22: by Debby (new)

Debby This is the first time I've encountered it. I immediately flagged it, as I was so put off by it. Thanks for the update that GR is working on the situation.

Barbara I'm not sure that we rec'd the same thing, but I did flag it. It seems that all my friends are getting these. Are they connected, I wonder?

message 24: by Maria (new)

Maria What inappropriate post?

Cindy I am suitably impressed by the book to give it a higher rating then you but it seemed transparent from the beginning. I probably feel stronger about this then some because it takes place in the environment of my life and I know many of the locales and places he writes about. Clearly Southern Vermont and the Berkshires are featured in such a way that a native might get a bit more disturbed by this then someone from another locale because it is so true that we are insular and guard our own. That is why Heather is introduced as a foil to the New England habit of playing it close to the vest. Stephen can reach out but can not invest and her public image and her ties to his childhood background make it look like they should hit it off and he should be more open. But he has embraced his New England Yankee 100%. Reticent and laid back.

message 26: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Maria wrote: "What inappropriate post?"

Maria it was spam that Babara already flagged and deleted.....or GR staff deleted it and the spammer.

message 27: by Barbara (last edited Jun 05, 2010 04:27PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Barbara Cindy wrote: "I am suitably impressed by the book to give it a higher rating then you but it seemed transparent from the beginning. I probably feel stronger about this then some because it takes place in the en..."

Cindy, much of what you state are the very reasons I disliked this book! I am very much a New Englander! I have lived all my life in Mass and spent much time in both NH and Vt.and have good friends around NE. One cannot generalize about Yankees. Yes, some are the typical reticent types, but many are warm and open.

Everyone has different feelings about books and the characters. I continue to feel that Heather was a meaningless distraction. I am capable of some fantasy, but angels? I agree on the transparency issue. I think Bohjalian missed the boat on this. He spoiled what could have been a meaningful book.

Barbara Maria wrote: "What inappropriate post?"

Several us within this Friends circle have commented on this (or these) spammer(s). I have been discussing it in Goodreads Feedback if you want to see their comments.

Cindy Barbara it is true one can not truly generalize about us New Englanders. But I thought the whole concept of Angels was just part of her being a foil to the more serious aspects of the book. Without trying to give any spoilers away she buys into Drew and Katie's stuff, her naivety plays right into their hands, without her it may actually have been harder to figure out where this book was going.

message 30: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Great post Barbara! And good points. Since I've lived in LA with all it's stereotypes for 30 years or so there are real people and then there is hype concerning celebrities who, oddly enough, are often real people too.

Barbara I have relatives in California, including an aunt in Beverly Hills (in a tiny apartment). Most are genuine, unaffected folks, who do not give credence to the stereotypes. C., You are included!!

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