“Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.” – Amy Hatvany
Amy Hatvany’s Best Kept Secret is a gripping novel that explores the intricacies of a painful truth – the truth of addiction.
“Cadence could be you, your neighbor, your friend,” author Kaira Rouda wrote. “At her core, she is the mother we all try to be.” Addictive tendencies may originate in unsuspecting individuals, including mothers of young children. This is the story of Cadence, and how she navigates the dark world of alcoholism.
Cadence’s marriage to Martin crumbled when their son, Charlie, was a toddler. After their divorce, Cadence felt the immense challenge and strain of balancing work (as a freelance writer) with the responsibilities of motherhood. It started with one glass of wine at night, to induce relaxation and a restful sleep. And then, one glass spiraled into consuming multiple bottles at a time, until her life spun out of control and became completely unmanageable.
When Cadence’s sister discovered Cadence in dire condition, during the pivotal height of addiction, she brought her to the emergency room, which led to a stay in the psychiatric ward, along with the commitment to an intensive treatment program. Utterly depressed and distraught that she lost custody of Charlie, Cadence wills herself to embark on a journey of recovery, sincerely hoping that all the broken pieces will fall back into place. The book jumps from present-day moments to flashbacks of the past, where we could glimpse Cadence’s demons and the road that led to the unraveling of her ‘best kept secret.’
Best Kept Secret reiterates a common misconception – that only those who come from tumultuous backgrounds succumb to alcohol and substance abuse.
“I’m not an alcoholic,” Cadence rationalizes in one chapter. “Alcoholics live under bridges and swig from bottles tucked in brown paper bags. They beg for change on street corners and make offers to wash windshields while you’re stopped at a traffic light. That’s not me. That’s not my life. I graduated from college. I own a home. I shower on a regular basis. I still have all my teeth. I had a drinking problem for a little while there, but it was just the wrong way to deal with the stress of being on my own with a toddler.”
Under the surface of any addiction, there’s a lack of coping strategies. In order to numb and dull emotional pain, some turn to a particular vice; in Cadence’s case, her vice was wine.
So, where did her inner turmoil originate? Cadence longed to be the ‘superhero mom’ who’s able to do everything without assistance. She struggled with vulnerability and had trouble asking for help. (That may stem from the fact that her mother was often absent during her childhood). Cadence felt inadequate; she couldn’t live up to the image of a ‘strong, self-sufficient woman,’ and the desire to ease those insecurities compelled her to drink. (I speculate that since she never had a reliable mother figure, she was suffering from that strained relationship as well.)
The final pages of the book include “A Conversation with Amy Hatvany;” she boldly discusses how this fictional account is deeply rooted in reality. “I began writing the story as a direct result of my own emotional experiences around being a mother and a recovering alcoholic,” she said. “In revealing Cadence’s secret I was revealing my own. There were dark memories I had to revisit, and it took some time to build up the courage to get the emotional side of those experiences fully onto the page.”
She also notes that women who aren’t alcoholics still may related to the storyline. “I wanted to emphasize how many women, whether or not they end up becoming an alcoholic, face incredible amounts of pressure to do everything in their lives perfectly. So we reach for behaviors that drown our shame out, at least temporarily. And then we become ashamed of the behavior, and a vicious cycle emerges.”
Amy Hatvany’s Best Kept Secret bravely depicts someone who must find her way out of the darkness and into the light. I recommend this incredibly honest and heartfelt portrait of an imperfect heroine.