In The Secret She Kept, ReShonda Tate Billingsley tackles the sensitive subject of mental illness within the African-American family. With fully developed characters and realistic dialogue, readers will walk away with a better understanding of what it means to be bipolar, being labeled “crazy” and how one can control this mental disease. In addition, readers will see how love, understanding, getting the appropriate help and devotion can all triumph in the end.
In this novel, Tia Jiles is a beautiful, savvy and successful lawyer who catches the eye of Lance Kingston, a successful Houston magazine executive who recently broke up with his girlfriend who cheated on him. Lance and Tia have a whirlwind romance, they get married and then she starts acting “crazy” (bursting into violent spells, hearing voices, being disoriented, etc.). He didn’t see any of this coming because Tia never revealed to him that since the age of seventeen she had an illness that takes over her mind. Tia could manage her illness if she followed what the doctors say and take her medication. But she’s easily swayed by her mother who would try to pray the problem away.
So, when Tia tells Lance she is pregnant, he becomes fearful and starts calling everyone including Tia’s mother to tackle and find a solution to get his wife back on track. His love for Tia and his strength is what pulled him and his family through it all. I have to say I applaud him because there were times when I thought he was going to throw in the towel. But he stuck in there even when Tia called the police on him during one of her episodes. One thing I wasn’t thrilled about was Tia’s mother ignoring or rather making excuses for Tia’s mental issues when Tia clearly needed medical attention. Nevertheless, it was a good read!
Of note, this was novel was made into a TV movie which debuted in July 2016 on TV One. I will definitely try to catch it when it airs again.
Some of my favorite lines:
Tia closed her eyes to drown out the voices warring in her head. Finally, she opened her eyes and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?
“I’ve never been more sure of anything. Why, you’re not?”
“No, I am. I…I just want to make sure. I mean, what…if you get with me and things aren’t everything that they seem?” She knew she was losing her nerve. She was being a coward.
“Oh, I’m expecting that. I know you women change when you get married,” he joked, finally smiling.
“I’m serious, Lance. What if you get with me and things aren’t everything that they seem?”
“I’m in it for the long haul, baby. I’m not going anywhere.”
I’m in it for the long haul. Those were the exact words Gavin said…right before she told him. But she also knew what they all said when they realized her aura of perfection was just an illusion.
Rating: 4 stars