As a reader, I’ve come across some great books that have left a lasting impression in me. Love Secret Lies is one that’s going to stick with me for a long time. It did more than entertain me; it propelled me back to my teen years, reminding me of my own upbringing in an African country. It was a bitter-sweet trip down memory lane, to a time the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique was a completely different place, a safe haven, until war and revolution shattered its peaceful existence and changed the lives of the thousands of people who were forced to flee the country.
For those reasons and because the book deserves to be read, I’d like to share my five-star review of the book.
Finally, a book that made me smile all the way through to the end. Love Secret Lies is one of the best books I have read so far this year. Having lived my teens in an African country around the same time as the protagonist, I found a bit of myself in the narrator as her stories allowed me to recall elements of my youth, pivotal moments that become the foundation of who we are as adults.
Teresa Fidalgo was raised in Mozambique in a strict household. Her parents are divorced and she and her brother live with their grandparents who are very protective and run a tight ship. It’s the 70s and the grandparents believe in traditional family values and proper manners. Teresa lives a charmed life until it’s upended when, at twelve, she and her family are forced to flee to Portugal to escape extreme violence and political persecution, leaving behind everything they have worked for.
Forced to say goodbye to her old friends, Teresa has difficulty adjusting to her new environment. Moreover, her grandparents become even more rigorous. She’s a strong-willed teenager who wants to embrace her youth, hang out with friends and have fun. She hates being dominated by old-fashioned rules, whether by her grandparents or the boys and young men she encounters along the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed sharing Teresa’s journey as she grows from child to young woman, one who’s increasingly aware of the first stirrings of her sexuality yet holds firm to her solid morals as ingrained into her by her grandparents, her faith and cultural background.
The tone of the book is light and upbeat, while also discussing some heavy topics. The slyly injected humor, the accuracy in depicting the era, the presentation of societal and political issues are all elements that intrigue the reader. I laughed out loud at the author’s liberal use of metaphors and similes, but what truly hooked me was her unique descriptive language. I mean, how often do you read phrases such as “… golden-haired, with green eyes like mountain ponds catching the sunlight filtered through the leaves of ancient firs.” I loved the glimpses of the protagonist’s summers spent in Madeira and the many places she visits with her family, and smiled often as I conjured up the images the author so graciously provides. This isn’t the typical Young Adult or coming of age novel; it’s a story for anyone who is or has been a teenager, one that was such a delight to read.