The Secrets of Southern Girls is a coming of age novel and a novel of suspense, two of my favorite things.
Synopsis taken from Amazon:
A tender, yet thrilling suspense novel about a young woman who uncovers devastating secrets that will resurrect the people she lost and the lies she buried – perfect for fans of Diane Chamberlain and Ellen Marie Wiseman
Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What's worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can't forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.
When August, Reba's first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie's past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried...and reveal that Julie isn't the only one who feels responsible for Reba's death.
Harrigan had me from the first page. I liked meeting Julie in the present day, as a single mother. Harrigan reveals things about Julie throughout the novel: bits and pieces about her relationship with her daughter, Beck's father, are slowly parceled out; information about her own childhood, and her relationship with Reba are also given to the reader slowly. I liked how this was done, creating suspense and also giving the characters some depth.
We learn more about what happened to Reba as well, not only from Julie and August, but from Reba's diary entries, the one place she truly revealed herself. I love books that are composed of journal entries, and reading Reba's diary brought her to life, despite the fact that she had been gone for a decade.
Harrigan's novel shows that it is impossible for anyone to truly know everything about someone. I always appreciate this which just proves how truly complex people are, and how little people reveal about themselves to the world.
Finally, the southern setting is something I enjoyed. The fact that racism was alive and well in Mississippi in 1997 is sad, but also very believable.
The Secrets of Southern Girls would be a great book club selection, providing plenty to discuss. It would also be the perfect book to take to the beach or pool this summer, or curl up with on the couch on a rainy day.