Author Leisha Kelly weaves a story of heartbreak and suffering in her book, Rorey’s Secret. Set on an Illinois farm in the late 1930s, the book chronicles the trials of the Wortham family and their neighbors, the Hammonds, during the short period of a few days. Disaster after disaster strikes the two families, creating plenty of shallow crises but no overarching conflicts.
Kelly attempts to create an intimate, personal account of the families’ tragedies by switching the first-person narrative among three of the heroes in the story. Each chapter, written in stilted and sometimes rough language, reads like a diary entry from one of the three narrators. Julia Wortham and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Sarah, are the main storytellers. Handicapped Franky Hammond gives a small part of the narrative.
The Worthams are presented as a close-knit family, living a difficult and busy life but depending on God for their daily needs. Julia is the model woman: she cares for her own large family, as well as the neighbor kids, delivers babies, and opens her home to anyone in need. Her neighbor, George, is a bitter drunkard who is scarcely able to care for his motherless children. The primary theme of the book is introduced when George’s barn burns to the ground, resulting in a near loss of everything the family possesses. Julia’s husband is seriously injured while saving one of the neighbor boys from the burning barn, and nearly every member of both families ends up being hurt in some way. The abused but perfect hero, Franky, is blamed for the fire, although the reader knows from the beginning of the book that it is actually Rorey who is responsible. The wayward thirteen-year-old and her secret boyfriend accidentally started the fire, beginning a series of trials and a feud between the boyfriend and Rorey’s brothers.
Rorey’s Secret lacks character and plot depth. The good characters are too good, and the bad characters’ faults are too predictable to leave the readers satisfied. Readers will find themselves unable to identify with their struggles and victories. For instance, Julia remains patient and calm throughout the book, although her home resembles an overcrowded hospital, and her husband is near death. Sarah finds herself torn between bringing to light Rorey’s secret crush, hating to betray her friend but holding her responsible for her father’s injuries. Fifteen-year-old Franky, despite being abused, attacked by Rorey’s boyfriend, and falsely accused, is completely forgiving and faultless. By the middle of the book, readers will likely find themselves wishing that he would make some little mistake, just to prove he is real.
Although Kelly’s use of different characters to narrate the story will help keep readers’ interest, the otherwise slow-moving pace of the book and the unrealistic characters make Rorey’s Secret difficult to recommend. -- Hannah Rexroth, Christian Book Previews.com
When all seems lost, out of the ashes redemption rises
Determination and faith have kept Samuel and Julia Wortham and their family safe through many trials. Together with their neighbors, the Hammonds, they have much to be thankful for--health, home, and happiness. But in the fall of 1938, life on their Illinois farms takes an unexpected turn.
When a raging fire breaks out and threatens to destroy the Hammond farm, the two families find themselves clinging to their faith in God. But as they face the daunting task of rebuilding what was lost, it seems that things will never be the same. Meanwhile Sarah Wortham is harboring a troubling secret that could reveal the cause of the fire, but she finds herself caught between a promise to a dear friend and the truth about what really happened.
A compelling tale of courage and community, Rorey's Secret continues the captivating saga of the Wortham family, who with trust and determination discover the restoring and healing power of forgiveness.