The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Published: 4 February 2014 by Bantam
Pages: 448 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Source: Publisher for review
Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone's secrets are exposed to the light?
Carla Buckley's latest novel, The Deepest Secret, poses not only the question about how well do you know the people around you, but also that the line between right and wrong isn't always clearly defined. I was exited to read it after I enjoyed Buckley's The Things That Keep Us Here in 2012, and interested to find out more about Eve's son's condition.
Xeroderma pigmentosum (or XP) is a genetic disease in which the sufferer's ability to repair damage caused by UV light is deficient - in other words, XP sufferer's cannot step into sunlight or any other type of UV light such as halogen bulbs without suffering burns, and subsequently skin cancers. Eve and David's son Tyler was diagnosed with XP as a baby, and their whole lives have been adapted to keeping him safe - from nighttime birthday parties through to asking all their neighbours to use non-Halogen globes in their homes and having all the street lights in their cul-de-sac turned off.
Such is Eve's obsession with keeping her son safe, that her husband has taken a job in another state, travelling back and forth every weekend to spend time with his family, and starting to feel very disillusioned with his life. What makes this relationship stand out from all the standard 'troubled marriage' story lines however, is the obvious fact that he still loves his wife - he has regular flashbacks to what she was like when they first met, the beginnings of their relationship, and how she lived before Tyler's diagnosis.
Eve's best friend Charlotte, who is her complete opposite, also lives in the cul-de-sac, and many of the residents are on friendly terms with each other, attending Tyler's birthday party and obliging Eve's requests, but there are also a few rebels who refuse to go along with her security measures. Tyler's nightly forays reveal a few of their secrets to him, but there's not actually that many revelations about the neighbours themselves - more their reactions when another child vanishes in the night.
Although I'm not always keen on alternate POVs, they work well for The Deepest Secret - it very much suits the underlying theme of the novel to see events from multiple perspectives.
Eve is admirable in her dedication and sacrifice to her family, but it also means that she doesn't really have her own personality - it has been pretty much absorbed by her determination that Tyler will remain well and have as fulfilling a life as possible. And although it's easy to feel sympathy towards Tyler due to his condition, his frustration with his life makes him rather unpredictable and unlikable.
But what I did particularly enjoy about The Deepest Secret was the main theme of the storyline - that although people have very definite ideas about what is right and wrong when they are removed from the situation, when they are in the middle of it, it's very difficult to make that distinction. Buckley's storytelling made it easy for me to see why Eve did things in a certain way, and although I appreciated the realism of the ending, it did feel a little rushed and not completely logical to me.