There’s a tiny secret I’m keeping this week. It isn’t a devastating secret, but it’s potentially hurtful to someone I care about, and it’s been niggling at my conscience all week long. So my reading this week was quite appropriate, for both novels centered on the psychological effects of carefully hoarded secrets.
In Nicole Borkat’s What Matters Most, thirty six year old Georgie Merkin struggles to accept her father’s death while coming to terms with life altering revelations from her mother’s past. As family secrets continue to reveal themselves, Georgie and her mother Estelle begin to repair the persistent cracks in their relationship, a relationship marked by Estelle’s seeming coldness and reserve. When Georgie comes to a crossroads in her own life, and ultimately chooses a course of action she will keep secret from her son, she comes to a new understanding of her mother’s circumstances.
What danger was there in disclosue? After all, shame and self-censure were not genetic traits like slim hips and left-handedness. Whatever measure of these she possessed were learned from her mother, and now she new why. For nearly forty years Estelle had safe-guarded her secret, and all the while the feeling had festered. Her heart, already a thicker muscle than most, had become tighter, tougher.” (What Matters Most)
Secrets definitely abound in Bernard Schlink’s The Reader. The story begins with 15 year old Michael Berg’s obsessive affair with an older woman, Hanna Schmitz, a secret he obviously keeps from his family and friends. It continues in later years as Michael comes to learn devastating secrets about Hanna’s past experiences as a guard in the Nazi concentration camps. Then Michael makes another realization about Hanna which he chooses to keep secret, information which could have affected the outcome of her life, and information that ultimately binds the two of them together in an unusual and painful way.
In both these novels, secrets become the driving force of emotions and behaviors, occasionally to devastating affect. Both novels make clear the way life is layered, the manner in which our past behaviors color not only our emotional devlopment but the way events will unfold and relationships emerge for generations to come.
The tectonic layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive. I undertand this. Nevertheless, I find it hard to bear.” ( The Reader)
I believe secrets are inevitable, and each person’s reason for keeping them as unique as the person themselves. As for my little secret this week ~ well, it’s effect on my future remains (at least for now)…a secret.