After her husband jets off on business, Juno’s left balancing life as the village doctor with parenting two precocious children and a menagerie of rowdy animals. She’s also left with questions about the state of her marriage—further complicated by the arrival of a handsome new coworker … who steals her office. With her world already spinning, the last thing she anticipates is her popstar sister, Lexia, digging up long-buried secrets when she arrives in Westenbury after years of estrangement. Still, family is family, and an off-kilter production of Jesus Christ Superstar just might be able to heal old wounds and solidify a sisterhood once again.
Here’s a riddle: what do you get when you put the funniest writer working today in an echoey room? Answer: Julie Houston. Julie Houston. Julie Houston.
Yes, that means even among all the familial drama and tension, Houston’s practically trademarked humor is back on display. From a mistaken medical house call to some politically minded chickens to chaotic musical rehearsals, she keeps every moment lively and the laughs rolling. And it’s not as though she’s doling out jokes on every page. Instead, she writes with such heart, tapping into the real essence of her characters, that when she does send up a snort-inducing scenario, it lands uproariously.
In turn, most of Sing Me a Secret’s success rests on Houston’s masterfully crafted characters. Four sisters, four sets of secrets, and a family in desperate need of a restart. Juno manages the bulk of the action, tying much of the story together while occasionally ceding some of the action to Lexia. Houston swaps between their viewpoints and dips into the past to tell their stories, and the result is a richly complex history for these women that has an effortlessly saga-like quality.
Even with such a powerful story at the forefront, Houston doesn’t skimp on the action at the periphery. For being fictional, Westenbury is brimming with life, and it’s populated by a cast that’s never known a boring or mundane day. An abundance of marriage confusion. An exploration of mental health. A singing competition and subsequent fame. An Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that can’t keep a cast. Houston manages it all before settling on an ending that ties everything together in a totally satisfying way.
Is Sing Me a Secret Julie Houston’s best book? Possibly. But then, all of her books could argue for that title.
Title: Sing Me a Secret
Author: Julie Houston
Publication Date: May 07, 2020
Classification: General Fiction
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.