The Secret We Lost Book Review
If you’ve been reading me for a while, you’re no stranger to author Linda Smolkin. I previously reviewed her first book Among the Branded on my Tomes and Tequila blog, and after became friendly with her online. I picked it as one of my early Tomes and Tequila online book club picks, and had the rare opportunity to have her attend our online book discussion, which was a dream come true. Having been in book clubs for YEARS, I’d always dreamed of being able to pick the author’s brain, and to be able to have her sitting next to me for an hour was beyond fun. I edited the event and put it up on my YouTube channel, if you’d like to take a look. So, reviewing her newest book was a given folks. I’m a fan of the woman, what can I say?
The Secret We Lost reads so differently from Among the Branded, it’s hard for me to reconcile that they are both from the same author. There are a few authors that I automatically buy and read every book they write, and they usually have a signature style where you can at least get a sense that it’s the same person writing. This book felt like a totally different beast from her previous selection. And trust me when I tell you that I will be trying my hardest in this post to remove my feelings for the author from the review, but I’m human y’all. And a gigantic thank you to Linda for gifting me a copy to read.
It’s 1993 and Elsa Kartchner’s daughter Laura is leaving to Russia for a year, and mom is not very happy about it. Not only that, but she’s stuck caring for a mother she’s never been close to. And she’s lonely. But when her mother passes away, she’s faced with a dilemma. There’s a secret in her past that she feels her daughter must hear from her lips, so she travels to Russia in the hopes of baring her soul. Things don’t go exactly as she’d hoped. What does this mean for Elsa’s future?
It took me a bit to digest my feelings about this book, and I think I finally understand what the deal was. The Secret We Lost really felt to my like such a personal story. I felt like I was reading a woman’s secret diary, filled with their heartache and neuroses…their daily minutiae and profound revelations. Elsa is hurting. She is hurting for so many different reasons…loves lost, a secret so horrific it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to live with it, the pain of feeling her mother never loved her, the pain of missing her only child, etc. And she owns that pain, really…and with work, we see what she makes of herself on the other side. Will she open herself up to new experiences, and potentially love again?
If I’m being completely honest, it took me a little bit to get into the book, but some of that might’ve been my health issues as I started the book. Once I got a few chapters in, I was invested in Elsa and her struggles. I enjoyed her reminiscing on the past, and her time living in New York City. I occasionally had to remind myself of the years the book was set in. I could get a clear picture of Laura in my head during every scene in which she inhabited. Thinking about Elsa waiting for letters from Laura made me remember my family waiting for letters from me when I lived in Italy and didn’t have a telephone! It’s hard to imagine it now. I also thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of Russia. I’ve never been, but even the grittier aspects in the novel made me wish I’d made my way that direction when we were living in Europe.
The Secret We Lost felt to me like spending time in Elsa’s head, and I enjoyed my time there. I’ll miss her, and I found myself wondering both what she did after the book ended…but also some of what brought this story about, after reading the author’s note at the end of the book. She mentions how she too left and spent time in Russia like the daughter in the book, and I desperately would love to hear those stories! I think this book would be great for people who like stories about family drama, mother/daughter relationships and mid-life reinvention.
The publication date is the 25th of September, with a pre-order price of $2.99 for the Kindle. Thank you again Linda for sending me a copy, and letting me take a look at your new book baby!