Article first published as Book Review: Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock on Blogcritics.
When Elizabeth (Beth) Gunnar accepts a teaching position at the preparatory school she attended as a girl, she is returning to more than a place–to memories, mysteries, and an old love. Once there she meets unexpected challenges–and challenging new people. She revisits ghosts of the past and old self-doubts. And she is reminded of the faith that first captured her there in what she called her “moments of being.” Every Secret Thing is a rich, complex weave of character, mystery and divine epiphanies.
Ann Tatlock’s writing resonates with her readers as her words are strung together with lyrical beauty. Her style is so refined that it borders on poetic. I found myself underlining passages and reflecting on the profound contemplation’s of Beth-the main character-hours after I had set the book down for the day (which was a very difficult thing to do).
This story is told in the first person as Beth draws us into her world jumping between her memories as a student at Seaton, a private preparatory school, in the ‘60s, to the present when she returns as an English teacher. Her journey through time is almost cyclical as the past begins to mirror the present in her role as mentor to a young student, the same way that she was mentored all those years ago by her own English teacher. Beth’s return to Seaton is steeped in mystery and intrigue as Tatlock alludes to hidden secrets beneath the veneer of Seaton’s well manicured lawns and pristine reputation.
Tatlock repeatedly tips her hat to literary geniuses throughout the novel as Beth and supporting characters pay homage to them through their teaching, dialogue, and mentorships. The love for reading and literature is respected and encouraged by both the author and her characters. Tatlock recognizes how important words are and the power that they carry.
It is hard to solidify this book into one genre because it has so many different layers. It is certainly inspirational, suspenseful, and dramatic. The air of mystery surrounding Beth’s return to her alma mater as a teacher is compounded by her mid-life awakening. I refrain from calling it a mid-life crisis because I think Beth is more contemplative than regretful about the life not lived. Furthermore, Beth does not hesitate to ask the questions about life that we are scared to face; yet, her questions are not empty musings, but steeped in reasoning and logic.
I could pick a thought provoking quote from each page of this book, but, instead, I will encourage you to experience it for yourself. Personally, I walked away from this book with a little more understanding about my fears in life and fears as an educator simply by following Beth on her journey of reconciliation, awakening, acceptance, and growth.