The Secrets of Heavenly tells the story of main character, Willa, as a slave until almost a decade prior to the civil war, through hers and other characters’ points of view. The story takes place from 1842 to 1852 and hints to the impending end of slavery as newer generations blur the lines between master and friend and slowly turn against it. I imagine this is how abolitionism in the south might have evolved.
The story is good and seems to realistically depict slavery, as much as I can imagine of course. There were several typos and punctuation errors in the book, but since the story was so good, I wasn’t distracted to the point of annoyance. The book starts out with a present-day woman reading Marianne’s journal, one of the characters in the main story. The inclusion of Marianne’s diary was interesting, but I don’t think that layer was necessary (of the beginning character receiving and reading the diary), but maybe the author felt she needed a way to introduce the diary.
The story built to a good climax and became faster paced as the end approached. There were several “Oh, no!” moments where I felt truly bad for Willa, but it wasn’t unexpected given the subject matter. Plus, you know that when you’re only halfway through a book and it looks like something wonderful is going to happen that something is probably going to go awry. The point is that I cared about Willa and hated to see bad things happen to her. There are themes of true love, accepting or not accepting the circumstances dictating life, finding positivity in the direst circumstances, and the human will to live no matter what.
Overall, this was a good story with an acceptable ending, all things considered. It’s a nice historical depiction of life leading up to the civil war. I read this book in just short of two weeks, so on a can’t-put-it-down-scale of one for I couldn’t even finish it to ten for I was up until the wee morning hours, I give it an eight.
Source: Robison, Teresa. (2013.) The Secrets of Heavenly. Writing Out Loud Publishing.