By Erna Buffie
At the heart of the novel is 74-year-old Pearl Calder, a woman who has thrown away her past and kept it a secret from her daughters. But as Pearl confronts her own mortality, she begins to understand what her dead husband, Henry, has always known. Secrets are like dark and angry ghosts. And they don’t just haunt you. They haunt everyone you love. Alternating between the past and present, and between Pearl’s voice and the voices of her family members, both living and dead, the story explores how all of our lives, to a greater or lesser degree, are shaped by secrets: our own as well as ancestral secrets we may know nothing about, but which affect who we are and who we become. Pearl is no exception. With a life that spans the Great Depression, the 2nd world war and the deep conservatism of the postwar boom, Pearl’s secrets are rooted in events over which she had no control: the death of her mother; a father destroyed by war; a brother who adores her, but who dies on the beaches of Dieppe, and a sister who abandons Pearl to save herself.