THE LANGUAGE OF SECRETS by Dianne Dixon

THE LANGUAGE OF SECRETS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In scriptwriter Dixon’s first novel, a man must confront the gaping holes in his childhood memories once he becomes a husband and father.

Working in hotel management in London, Justin Fisher never thinks much about why he has lost contact with his family in California. Then in 2005 he accepts a job in Santa Monica. Taking his wife Amy and baby to visit his parents at the Fisher family home at 822 Lima St. in nearby Sierra Madre, he is shocked to discover that his father has died, and that no one remembers Justin. He is even more shocked at the cemetery when he finds a gravestone marked with his name, and claiming that he died at age three. Cut to 822 Lima St. in the 1970s: Caroline Fisher has a brief affair with a friend of her husband Robert and becomes pregnant. But Caroline, the insecure product of a broken home, is desperate to keep her marriage together for the sake of her two daughters. When Robert discovers three-year-old Justin is not his son and goes behind Caroline’s back to get rid of him, Caroline feels helpless to stop him. She never forgives Robert for secretly giving Justin away but stays married for the sake of her daughters, who innocently see Robert as the victimized spouse. Back in the present, adult Justin is increasingly troubled by his inability to connect his disjointed memories of childhood into a whole. Through therapy, he begins to remember not only his first three years but the rest of his childhood: being lovingly cared for by a red-haired woman who called him TJ until a car accident took her away when he was five, then growing up in foster care. Finally he remembers the terrible third trauma that caused him to forget so much. As his memory returns, he and Amy face a crisis in their marriage.

Dixon writes convincing prose, particularly dialogue, but the plot, with its pointed references to Dissociative Identity Disorder, has a manufactured quality.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-385-53063-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2010