Nubian Circle Book Club

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Secret Book Review

Reviewed by Phyllis Rhodes

Intense and Suspenseful!

This dark debut novel by Mirika Cornelius is set in rural Kentucky and centers on a young girl's search for her parents.  Secret Jones is a lonely, angry, and misunderstood child left at birth in the care of her loving maternal great-aunt. She initially has little contact or knowledge of any other relatives with the exception of an occasional visit from her mother's brother. Secret's young life is turned upside down when the great aunt passes away unexpectedly. Her hardship (physical, mental, and verbal abuse) begins when she is forced to stay with an alcoholic, promiscuous paternal aunt. For years, the aunt tells Secret that her mother was a whore and questions Secret's paternity. This abusive atmosphere and years of societal ostracism compel a teenaged Secret to begin her quest to find the truth. The journey leads to even more eccentric relatives, a heartbreaking, awkward confrontation of the town's pillars (including the local minister), the meeting of her first love, and discovery of her inner strength, self-respect, and dignity. When the truth is finally revealed, it is shocking and painful.

Be warned, this book is not for everyone -- it is a somewhat depressing tale with episodes of rape, domestic violence, and graphic child abuse. However, it is a relatively short book that can be read in one sitting. It starts slowly, but quickly becomes a "page-turner;" my heart truly felt for the child who was in desperate need of love and protection. The author's storytelling ability is good she is very straightforward and honest. However, I had issues with the timeframe in which this story was to have occurred. For example, at the beginning of the novel, I thought (based on setting descriptions) the era was somewhere in the 1920-1940's. When the author described Secret's school and children on the playground double-dutching, I thought perhaps the 1970-1980's, yet when she described the model of the cars and use of the "boyfriend's" vernacular/dialog it made me think it was modern day, perhaps in the late 1990's or the new millennium. So I was constantly adjusting my frame of mind and mental images throughout the story. Aside from that, Ms. Cornelius shows great potential this reviewer is looking forward to her next release.

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Secret is 3 out of 5 stars.