Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

A Secret Word


Yesterday, I finished “A Secret Word” by Jennifer Paddock. This was another book from my aunt. The appeal for me was that it was written by someone from my hometown. Jennifer Paddock is from Fort Smith, Arkansas and the story begins there.

The story follows three women through fifteen years of their lives. It begins in high school when all three girls experience a tragedy together that links them for the rest of their lives. At least that is the premise. Though their lives intersect a time or two throughout the rest of the book, I felt that the premise was lacking. For example, the characters are never all in the same place again throughout the whole book.

While it was fun to read the writer wax on about my hometown and locations within it, I didn’t feel that the story was very interesting. Sarah and Chandler are from privileged backgrounds and eventually leave Arkansas for New York and trips to Italy, while Leigh is left behind in Arkansas to work in a store and dream of bigger things. One of the girls experiences tragedy, another experiences the heavy weight of an ordinary life without hope, and the last just seems to be floating pointlessly through her life on her absent father’s credit card.

It isn’t that their individual stories aren’t interesting, they’re passable. The issue is that it is supposed to be a story about these intersecting lives, and I didn’t think it led anywhere. There wasn’t a climax or an ironic meeting of the characters. Things just worked out in the end better for some people than others. And it didn’t help that two of the characters were best friends. So, much of their stories were heavily related. The third girl was just doing her own thing. I felt like there should be a more balanced attention to the relationships of the three characters and more common interactions.

The appeal for me is the hometown references. I was surprised to see it rated 4 stars on Amazon. Apparently a lot of people loved the book. I am sad to say I’m not one of them. It was readable, but they are not characters or stories that will stay with me. I’m not sure what the “secret word” was in the story. Maybe that is the problem. I just found it lacking overall. The story was weak. The writing was weak. I wouldn’t recommend it to people.

But, I’m just one opinion. Seems I’m the odd woman out on this one, if ratings count for anything. Maybe it will be your favorite book. However, it wasn’t mine.


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