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Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel, Secrets of Eden, is a skillfully weaved tale, a net of secrets, with a murder at its center.
Hence, these pages are narrated by not just one, but four narrators: Reverend Stephen Drew, Catherine Benincasa (the state attorney), Heather Laurent (the author of self-help books about angels), and Katie Hayward (the daughter of Alice and George Hayward). Each narration offers an entirely subjective perspective of the events and characters involved. In an interview with the author, Armenian Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian asked, “Women figure prominently in many of your novels. Bohjalian responded, “I wish I could say there was a specific process, but I don’t find writing about women that different from writing about men. Secrets of Eden has debuted on a variety of bestseller lists: the New York Times at #6, Publishers Weekly at #6, National Indie List at #10, and New England Booksellers Association at #3. Meanwhile, novelist and Cosmopolitan editor John Searles featured Secrets of Eden on his winter roundup of books to read on the NBC Today Show on Jan. Bohjalian is the author of 12 other novels, including the New York Times bestsellers, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before You Know Kindness, The Law of Similars, and Midwives.
Note: This is a $10 ticketed fundraising event for the Douglas County Libraries Foundation. This small-town man of God has all the hallmarks of a religious righteousness: compassion, attentiveness, and platitudes. Alice is the perfect mother and wife with a seemingly perfect husband and marriage…until the flashbacks start. Detective Benincasa is a well-respected member of the local police force, and she realises something is up from the beginning. Kate is Alice and George’s teenage daughter, once again a seemingly cookie-cutter good girl. Along with being the proprietor of the local new-age shop, Heather has some kind of thing about angels and write badly reviewed books on them. From the bestselling author of The Double Bind, Midwives, and Skeletons at the Feast comes a novel of shattered faith, intimate secrets, and the delicate nature of sacrifice."There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. While stylistically reminiscent of his earlier best seller, Midwives, Bohjalian's 13th novel is his most splendid accomplishment to date.
After the shocking murder of her mother, a girl helps a police detective by searching her home for clues that they hope will lead to the perpetrator.
During the summer of 1993, six teenagers (three boys and three girls) meet at summer camp and become close friends, sharing their dreams for the future.
Established in 2006, Global Agency is the world’s leading ‘independent’ TV content distributor of TV series, formats and films for global markets. The story is set in a Vermont suburb, where “…murder-suicides are blessedly uncommon.” The victim is Alice Hayward, strangled by her husband, George Hayward, who then commits suicide.
In addition, all four narrations are interjected with excerpts from Heather Laurent’s self-help books, which illuminate, clarify, and help the reader digest the themes that arise in these pages.
Bohjalian has clearly done his research, which, to me, is most evident in the second part of the novel, when Benincasa, the mother of two small boys, assumes the role of pilot, or narrator. He also wears tight shirts and fashionable shoes, so forgive us for being a bit suspicious.

Once she sets Pastor Drew firmly in her sights, she does everything she can to get her man. She also has a thing for Pastor Drew, and decides the best time to act on it is after her friend Alice is killed and Drew is under suspicion for her murder. She does know that she’s suspicious of Pastor Drew, like every single other person in town, and when Kate parents are murdered, Ginny steps up to take the orphaned high schooler in out of the cold. George is your classic abusive husband, beating his wife to a pulp one minute and writing her crap poetry full of apologies the next. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . The story revolves around the apparent murder-suicide of Alice and George Hayward and its toll on the couple's teenage daughter Katie, the lost faith of Rev.
Part I opens with the first-person testimony of Stephen Drew, minister to a Baptist congregation in Haverill, Vt., that includes Alice Hayward, whose husband George tops off years of beatings by strangling her after dinner on the day she chose to be baptized.
But some mornings disease and despair seemed to permeate the congregation like floodwaters in sandbags, and the only people who stood during the moment when we shared our joys and concerns were those souls who were intimately acquainted with nursing homes, ICUs, and the nearby hospice. Global Agency was founded in the second half of 2006 with only 1 project and a team of 2 people. But as the plot develops and we meet the state attorney, it becomes clear that not everyone is convinced that George’s death was a suicide. Soon, we find out that Benincasa had always been “fascinated” by stories “about husbands who murdered their wives, drug dealers who machine-gunned federal agents, serial killers who had children buried in their basement and backyards.” Her narration navigates between Catherine the attorney, recapping the details of the Hayward case, and Catherine the “sentinel” mother, offering anecdotes and observations on her two children and husband. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues.
Stephen Drew’s Vermont Baptist church, Alice Hayward and her abusive husband are found dead in their home, an apparent murder-suicide.
It quickly becomes clear that Stephen and Alice had been lovers, and the weirdly distanced description of the guilt he feels about her death is creepy even before we realize that George may not have shot himself after killing his wife, and Stephen is the top suspect in the eyes of deputy state's attorney Catherine Benincasa. Concerns invariably outnumbered joys, but there were some Sundays that were absolute routs, and it would seem that the only people rising up in their pews to speak needed Prozac considerably more than they needed prayer. Now, fifteen years later, their childhood friendships have developed into passionate love affairs, deep friendships and professional relationships.
At times the two converge to present a fuller picture of Catherine’s own self and actions, while offering commentary on domestic violence from this powerful and yet vulnerable position.
Stephen, the novel’s first narrator, is so racked with guilt over his failure to save Alice that he leaves town.
As the narrative takes its turn through a series of voices, Bohjalian wends his way through the reader's mind, toying with perceptions, trust, and doubt. The narration of Part II is problematic; while Stephen is arrogant and self-absorbed, Catherine is vengefully obsessed with the violence against women she sees in her work.
She is “fascinated” by Alice Hayward’s diary, not so much by its content, but because she herself (as she claims) has “just never been all that introspective.” Yet, at times, her narration hints to the contrary. Soon, he meets Heather Laurent, the author of a book about angels whose own parents’ marriage also ended in tragedy.

The portrait of the Hayward marriage that emerges from both accounts is grimly predictable (angry, controlling man; passive, isolated woman). The corruption, the desire for power and the trials and tribulations within each of their relationships has scattered their dreams like dust in the wind.
And so, Bohjalian has created characters that are at first glance simple and discernable, but in actuality are as complex and even contradictory as any living and breathing person may be.
As lives are dissected, relationships are uncovered and their repercussions hypothesized and echoed. The novel improves dramatically with the narration in Part III of Heather Laurent, author of bestselling books about angels who has a brief affair with Stephen in the aftermath of Alice's murder. Fans of Bohjalian’s more exotic works will miss learning something new, but this is a masterfully human and compassionate tale.
VERDICT A fantastic choice for book clubs, this novel deals beautifully with controversial topics of domestic abuse, faith, and adultery without resorting to sensationalism. Heather's father killed her mother and then himself when she was 14, and she thinks she can help both Stephen and 15-year-old Katie Hayward, Alice and George's daughter, deal with their trauma.
That lady behind you is about to lose her husband to pancreatic cancer, and you’re whining about your difficult boss? Heather's depiction of her parents' marriage has the specificity and complexity missing from the collage portrait of the Haywards, though her fixation on angels never amounts to anything more than a fictional device.
Part IV, narrated by Katie, has a somber power as the girl imagines her parents' last hours. A schematic tale of batteredwives, murderous husbands and the consequences for their traumatized daughters. In his latest novel, a small Vermont hamlet has been racked by a well-established couple's apparent murder-suicide. The whiners knew that they couldn’t compete with the legitimate, no- holds- barred sort of torment that was besieging much of the congregation, and so they kept their fannies in their seats and their prayer requests to themselves. Bohjalian describes the aftermath of that ruinous night in varied voices, effortlessly slipping into the heads of the shaken local pastor, the no-nonsense deputy state attorney, and the best-selling author whose own past draws her to the scene of the crime.
That day we heard from a thirty- four- year- old lawyer who had al­ready endured twelve weeks of radiation for a brain tumor and was now in his second week of chemotherapy. He was on steroids, and so on top of everything else he had to endure the indignity of a sudden physical resemblance to a human blowfish.
Spafford wrote that hymn after his four daughters had drowned when their ship, the Ville de Havre, collided with another vessel and sank. Immediately after the spellbinding surprise ending, readers will want to begin again at the first page.

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