The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

If I had to describe my feelings while reading Diane Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, I could do so in one word: enthralled.

I picked this book off the library shelf after reading a review of it on PBFingers. I was unsure of whether or not I’d like it, I’m not always into the mysterious, dramatic, and unreal-type stories. This book was also pretty thick, so I was already scared to read it! That being said, I LOVE Jodi Picoult’s books…all of which are usually upwards of 400 of pages long (yes, I’ve read each and every one of her books as well as attended multiple book signings). The reason why I like Picoult’s novels? They keep me interested from start to finish, incorporating twists and turns.

That’s exactly why I loved this novel, and why I plan on searching for more of Chamberlain’s novels next time I go to the library or Barnes and Noble.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes is a dramatic story involving a naive and hopelessly in love 16-year old, willing to do anything and everything to please her boyfriend, 6 years her senior. The story begins in the college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina and takes readers to another college town, Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the reasons I liked this book was the fact that I could easily picture the grounds of UVA’s campus, beautiful and colonial (I’m still a Hokie at heart, forever).

The story forced me to ask so many questions. The CeeCee Wilkes is forced to make a difficult and permanent decision at a very young age. The decision promises to impact her life, for the rest of her life. Chamberlain is known for creating intricate familial and personal relationships, and she didn’t fail with this novel. I bega n to wonder, what REALLY makes someone a mother or a father? Sure, the biological mother is the one who birthed the child, but what if she’s not the primary caregiver? It is entirely possible for one’s real parents to never really know or take care of their own children. We see this all the time with celebrities; I don’t quite picture them waking up with the baby in the middle of the night, they surely have nannies for that.

Another question I pondered: is it possible for one to completely disappear into hiding? And, by creating this new disguise, how does one let go of the person they once were? Many of the reasons I love books like this one is because the characters are so much braver than I could ever dream of being.

Told from the point of view of the women most involved in the story, the plot thickens and becomes more realistic with each additional perspective. CeeCee’s past eventually catches up with her, and she is forced to make an incredibly difficult decision, one I’m not sure I’d be able to make. The decision she makes immediately changes and uproots not only her own life, but the lives of her other family members.

It’s a story of deception, love, and loyalty. It was the perfect book to take to the lake with me because I had ample free time to read it. I never wanted to put it down, and if you tend to get that way with books, I recommend setting out a large portion of time to read this book from start to finish.

I became interested in other Chamberlain books after reading The Secret Life, and became even more interested in the author after reading her biography and learning that she also lives in Northern Virginia. It was cool to learn that I’m living among a bestselling author!


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