Truths I Never Told You

Truths I Never Told You REVIEW

Truths-i-never-told-you-1In Kelly Rimmer’s novel Truths I Never Told You, three generations of mothers can be seen struggling with some hereditary difficulty with post-partum depression. Through the use of story, the novel explores the manifestations of this debilitating experience and clarifies the difference between what it means to be “tired” at the onset of a new caregiving responsibility and what it means to really have a chemical/hormonal affliction. The novel also explores the role that men, medication, and mercy can play in dealing with the challenges. Perhaps more than anything, the novel explores the dangerous game we all play when we keep secrets too long.

Beth Walsh, the main character, and her husband, Hunter, have long wanted a child. When they finally get pregnant and Beth gives birth to her son Noah, she comes to believe that there is something wrong with her as she struggles to deal with an overwhelming sense of failure, fatigue, and frustration. Why doesn’t motherhood come naturally, she wonders? Why does it feel like she is doing everything in wet cement?

When Beth’s father has to be relocated to a memory care unit, Beth begins the process of cleaning out his attic and in that process, she discovers some letter left by a Beth’s mother, a woman she thinks died in a car accident when she was an infant. She is about to discover that this was not the case. Grace’s mother died in another way and as the story unfolds, we are allowed a glimpse into the life of Grace’s mother and how she had to deal with the same affliction Beth has, but in a world before she had the same choices that Beth has. In telling the story of Grace, we are also introduced to Grace’s mother, another woman from an even earlier period who delt with the scourge of post-partum depression herself. All of these characters saw their condition as a flaw in their own characters and try their best to conceal their experiences from their communities of care lest they be judged as somehow “unfit” mothers.

Rimmer’s novel, while seeking to entertain, makes every effort to educate in the process. By building a plot-line with three generations of an apparently genetic condition, she seeks to remove any feelings of guilt associated with the condition. None of these women choose to respond as they do to the role of mother. They all wish they were not afflicted. They all struggle with a feeling of shame that somehow their condition is evidence of some lack of virtue. Over the course of the novel, Beth, a therapist by training, goes to a therapist and we get a therapeutic window into the treatment of this form of depression. We also get to see the mistakes and the contributions that family members make as they all seek to help Beth with her symptoms. Following out the history’s of Beth’s mother, Beth’s aunt Marianne, and Beth’s grandmother (the story bounces back and forth between the 1950’s and the 1990’s) allows the reader to follow the trajectory of evolution with respect to psychology, neurobiology, policy, and issues of mental health

The title of the novel, the Truths I Never Told You, could refer to any number of the characters. There are truth’s that Beth does not tell her family. There are truths that Beth’s father never told her. There are truths that Beth’s mother Grace never told her husband, Patrick. There are truths that Beth’s aunt Marianne tried to hide from the police, from her sister’s children, and from Beth’s father, Patrick. There are truths that Patrick never told the police once he learned them. There are truths that Beth’s grandmother kept from her daughter Grace, Beth’s mom. There are truths that Beth hides from her therapist. There are truths that the author hides from the reader for almost the entire novel.

I would add that there are some truths that the author hides from the reader throughout and that she never brings up.

But I will let the reader discover those if they wish.

Question for Comment: How have secrets protected people from harm in your own life? How have they done damage eventually? And what is the relationship between shame and secrets in your own experience? Has life taught you to keep more secrets or less over time?