cover image Secret Lives

Secret Lives

Diane Chamberlain. HarperCollins Publishers, $19.95 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017907-6

Although one significant secret in this many-layered novel will fail to surprise readers, the brisk, atmospherically evocative narrative is absorbing reading. Eden Riley, an Oscar-winning actress and recently divorced mother of a four-year-old, returns to Lynch Hollow and the tangled roots of her Shenandoah Valley childhood to film the story of her mother, Katherine Swift , a famous author of children's books. Katherine was a solitary eccentric who wrote in the nearby cave, where she died when Eden was 11. Eden spent two years in an orphanage before she was found by her putative uncle Kyle, an archeologist, and taken to New York to live with him and his wife. Kyle, now retired to Lynch Hollow, gives Eden her mother's journals, which gradually reveal Eden's and Kyle's true relationship. Parallel to Eden's dawning awareness is her affair with Ben, an archeology disciple of Kyle's who has been ostracized after being falsely accused of sexually abusing his own child. Providing background to Eden and Ben's steamy sex scenes are the glimmering images of the young Katherine in the fastness of her cave, committing to her journals the nearly incestuous love that could not be acknowledged. Chamberlain wrote Lovers and Strangers. BOMC alternate. (Mar.)