Book Review: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

Secrets of Southern Girls…

Book Description:

In this powerful, affecting debut, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed…

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

 

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My Thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this novel, but would consider it more of a suspense than a thriller. The quest to uncover the diary of a long dead friend in an effort to learn the truth about how she died. Rather simplistic on the surface, yet beneath this was a whole lot of emotional baggage for the characters and entrenched misunderstanding about the events from long ago.

The four main characters, Jules, Reba, Toby, and August, were all interesting in their own way, fabulously flawed and driven by desires that ran deep. Although, I found August rather insubstantial, only getting a glimpse of the real man towards the end of the novel, when it was really too late. Reba we met through her diary entries, as well as in the memories and flashbacks of Toby, Jules, and August. Jules and Toby were perhaps the most interesting characters. I liked both of them equally and felt their motivations for hurting each other, while grounded in selfish immaturity, were quite convincing.

The arrangement of this novel was at times a little messy. I felt that Reba’s diary chapters did not read at all like a diary. I enjoyed her perspective, but think it might have worked better if we were simply propelled back in time to her point of view, without the guise of reading her diary. The flashback scenes were perhaps the messiest. I prefer a clear this is then, this is now arrangement. Much of what I found to fault in this novel would have been avoided if the structure was more tidy.

Nevertheless, I was engaged with this novel right from the beginning, finding myself glued to the pages in the second half, keen to find out who Reba was and why she ended up dead. There’s no great mystery in this novel, nor is there a twist that leaves you reeling. But it is a good story, rather character driven, and well worth the read.

Expected publication: June 6th 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a pre-release copy of this novel for review via Netgalley.