Since 1955, Sheila Franklin, a talented musician, has perfectly performed the role of devout pastor’s wife, locking away her past as Sheba Alexander and Sylvia Allen. Her carefully constructed façade crumbles with a single phone call from a young Marine named Samuel, the illegitimate son she secretly put up for adoption. Samuel begs Sheila to use her government contacts to get his fiancé, Mali, a Thai prostitute, into America.
A dangerous mixture of love and guilt spurs her to help her only child even though it devastates her husband Edward and exposes her questionable past. After a quarrel with Edward, Sheila and Samuel board a C-130 for Thailand and then search Bangkok’s steamy streets for a Madonna-faced prostitute. The two whisk Mali from a brothel but are seized by a warlord who considers Mali his “number one girl.” In a teak “ghost house,” Sheila discovers God’s grace and gains the freedom she needs to find her own identity—Sheila, Sylvia, and Sheba. A framed story, this novel has roots in the bohemian 1940s New Orleans French Quarter and spans three decades, including the turbulent Vietnam era.
This is undoubtedly one of the most poignant books that has come across my reading pile. The Rhythm of Secrets is an epic tale about masquerading that is perfectly set in the birthplace of the biggest masquerade festival, New Orleans. Sylvia (also known as Sheba and Sheila) takes on imposed identities while suppressing her true self in order to fit the ideal that those around her expect her to fulfill. Sylvia is the embodiment and personification of her hometown New Orleans: broken, mysterious, soulful, artistic, diverse, and resilient. The plot traces over three decades spanning from WWII to Vietnam without the reader getting lost in the historical shuffle or flashbacks.
Books like The Rhythm of Secrets are a rarity because few authors dare write a book that defies the boundaries and stereotypes of the inspirational fiction genre. Patti Lacy has done just that by journeying to the darkest places in our souls and illuminating them with the love of God. This book is intoxicating because of the depth and artistic genius that is poured into every element. The dramatic tension and candid dialogue cut to the quick. The lyrical prose and sweeping descriptions are balanced by raw emotion and tragic realities.
Strains of smooth jazz emanate from each page until even the turn of a page adds to the imaginative orchestra surrounding the reader in sweet melodies. There is a soundtrack associated with each chapter that perfectly accompanies the emotions and plot with flawless harmony. In fact, for certain chapters, I found myself humming along to a silent ditty as the music accompanied me in experiencing the crescendo of emotions. Recently, when I was describing Sheba to a friend (convincing her that this book should be shuffled to the top of her reading list) I equated her to August Rush, someone finds music in the simplest, most mundane elements of life.
One thing is for sure, I will not keep Patty Lacy a secret after reading this exceptional story.
**Thank you to Litfuse for providing a review copy**