4 out of 4 stars
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The Empty Light of Secrets by M. A. Street is just what the subtitle describes, Three Tales of Hidden Things. In each of the three stories, a secret is revealed in a compelling way. If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and his surprising but believable twists, you will love this book.
In the first story, “The Pond” a teenage boy finds himself spending the summer on an old farm in Kentucky. The author does a great job of describing not only the environment but allowing the reader to soak in the slow pace of country life. The boy, Eddie, decides to explore the property out of boredom and a desire to get away from his younger siblings. His wanderings reminded me of my own summer visits to relatives in West Virginia. The landscape just calls to you and whole days can be spent visiting with nature. Eddie eventually finds a dried-up pond with logs half buried in the bottom. He spends many days clearing this area. I normally don’t like a slow-moving plot, but I was rooting for Eddie the whole time especially when he taught himself to drive a tractor to pull out the last log. His reward was water springing up and filling the pond. A few days later he comes to the pond to find a neighbor girl skinny dipping. Just another glimpse into country life. Eddie and the girl, Mel, become friends and eventually sweethearts. There is some mystery because Mel will only meet him at the pond and she never lets him walk her home. Their relationship continues to develop and eventually leads to a sexual encounter. This is no torrid romance, however. The author gives an accurate and touching account of two inexperienced young people discovering each other for the first time. The story continues as the main character helps restore the old farm and does some digging into where Mel lives. Then the huge twist is revealed and the whole world is turned upside down. I thought I knew where the mystery was leading, but I was completely wrong. I love when a story can take me by surprise, and this one definitely did. It was an absolute joy to read.
In addition to the great descriptions, the author is also skilled with figures of speech. For example, the removal of the tree from the bottom of the pond is effectively compared to a tooth extraction. Also, the pond itself is described as an “oasis from all imaginary cares, a wellspring of healing”. The main character himself is highly reflective and philosophical at times. Together this creates a style that is pleasant and relaxing to read.
The second and third stories were equally enjoyable. “Junior’s at the Y” is about a man writing his wife a letter to reveal a secret he could never admit during their life together. The author skillfully uses dialect in this story as well as exploring the issues of prejudice, love, religion, war, and family life. The third story “The Goat Man” is on the surface about a traveling baseball scout who falls in love. It is also about a town mystery involving a ‘demon goat’. However, intermixed are again issues of prejudice as well as lost dreams.
I am pleased to rate this book as 4 out of 4 stars. I enjoyed the style and the deep thoughts as well as the surprises revealed. There is some mild cursing that is appropriate to the characters involved but might turn off some readers. Also, the sexual content, while realistic and not a huge part of the story, might not be appropriate for younger readers. Overall, I would recommend this amazing book to anyone who wants a relaxing read with lots of depth and great characters.
The Empty Light of Secrets
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