Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Amanda Jennings
Format: ARC, 376 pages
Publisher: Canvas, imprint of Constable & Robinson
Pub Date: August 16, 2012
Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings is a dramatic story of a family who must struggle through their grief from the loss of their sister and daughter named Anna, who in a tragic accident, falls from the roof of her school.
The cover of the book features a sombre-looking young girl, which may deceive its readers into thinking this is a simple young adult (YA) novel. but rest assured, don’t be misled. The grip of the story is serious and mature enough to peak the interest of its readers to not only empathize with the emotional responses of the characters in the book, but sombrely feel the substantial weight of their personal loss and grief.
Anna’s mother, Kate, succumbs to a deep, almost intolerable form of grief that reveals a disturbing post-traumatic stress, which ultimately alienates her husband, Jon, and their daughter, Lizzie, who, too, must come to terms with their own feelings of loss while trying to appease their wife and mother’s manic inability to cope.
Jon’s own grief for his daughter’s death is repressed and cast aside along the continual deterioration of his father’s health who is afflicted with the disheartening last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. His steadfast compulsion to remain a pillar of strength for his wife furthers his burden of helplessness and deterioration at the potential loss and disintegration of his marriage.
Through Jon’s constant worry and concern for his wife, Kate, and Kate’s self-indulgent, self-preoccupation; their less charismatic, yet surviving daughter, Lizzie, is left emotionally neglected, almost unseen—a ghost of her elder sister both in looks and in blossoming personality.
But, the novel is much more than a secular form of grief, but a book with a rich backdrop of characters that enrich and further complicate the story:
- Jon’s parents
- Jon’s extroverted and over-zealous brother, Dan
- Kate’s best friend, Rachel
- Rachel’s daughter and Anna’s friend, Rebecca
- Stephen Howe, school principal
- Mrs. Howe, Dr. Howe’s wife
- Haydn Howe, Anna and Lizzie’s friend
It’s an easy and readable narrative, though at times can be heavy laden with the self-indulgence of the character, Kate and her wallowing grief. Yet, it is entertaining with a few surprising twists that will intrigue the reader to move along in the work. The surprises reveal the complex nature of personality and relationships and the potential hidden secrets and desires found in them. We also experience the private and personal affliction of loss at the questions that surround the unnatural death of a loved one through the characters’ suffering.
The end, too, while it provide a sense of inevitable closure, it does leaves room for open-ended possibility in the story—which could very well call for an anticipated sequel!
A special thank you to Canvas Books, an imprint of Constable & Robinson in the U.K. for providing me with an ARC of Sworn Secret in exchange for an honest, unpaid review.
Have you ever lost someone close to you through an accident? What would your advice be to the character, Lizzie, in coping with her grief at the loss of her sister?