This 'Secret' creates engaging page-turner

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Put yourself in Cecilia Fitzpatrick's shoes: If you found a letter that your husband, conveniently away on a business trip on another continent, marked “to be opened only in the event of my death” — exactly how long would it be before you were steaming it open?

Add into your decision that things have been a bit off lately with your handsome and devoted husband, John-Paul. You haven't made love in six months, and your daughter heard him weeping in the bathroom. Still, Cecilia holds off for 162 tantalizing pages.

All husbands — and wives — have secrets, but John-Paul Fitzpatrick's is devastating.

Australian author Liane Moriarty (“What Alice Forgot”) is far more than the skillful writer of potboilers. Her compelling characters could be your friends and neighbors, nice and neurotic in equal doses.

Rachel, the widowed school secretary, is tormented by the death of her daughter, Janie, at age 16 — her killer never found. Tess is an advertising executive whose husband and cousin (Tess's best friend) — also her business partners — have just confessed they are in love.

Cecilia is the mom who does it all, hosting Tupperware parties (she's one of Australia's top sales people), cooking Easter dinner for 58 people, serving as president of St. Angela's Primary Parents and Friends Association, all while raising three daughters, one of them gifted.

Moriarty's pulsing pace and engaging characters make it well worth the wait to find out John-Paul's secret. She avoids an unfortunate trend in women's fiction to make men bad guys or doofuses. The men in “The Husband's Secret” are fully realized, thoughtful and caring, as flawed and faithful as the women who love them.

Amid three intertwined story lines and terrific plot twists, Moriarty presents a nuanced and moving portrait of the meaning of love, both marital and familial, and how life can hinge on a misunderstanding or a decision made in haste. “The Husband's Secret” is so good, you won't be able to keep it to yourself.

Last week, CBS Films acquired the film rights to the book, which was just published in July.

Patty Rhule is a contributing writer for USA Today.

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