The best books about family secrets and what's left unsaid

Who am I?

Family secrets aren’t always intentionally planned. The expectations of each generation often determine what’s spoken and what’s left unsaid. Uncannily, my fiction has revealed what’s been left unspoken in my family - not deep dark secrets, but the more ordinary ego and generationally-driven variety. In my writing there’s an unconscious precognition that occurs, pointing to mysteries in my own life. My work explores themes of family and longing, revealing the undercurrents of life that can be sensed but never grasped. In fact, after writing Bird with the Heart of a Mountain I discovered my own secret - that my Eastern European ancestry contained Romani blood!


I wrote...

Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

By Barbara Mariconda,

Book cover of Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

What is my book about?

Set during the Spanish Civil War, sixteen-year-old Drina yearns to dance flamenco. When she dances, she forgets what seems to be her legacy: I am nothing. I belong nowhere. Why does her mother forbid her to dance? She wonders about the dark family secrets her mother keeps that somehow hold them prisoner.

From her Gypsy campagna to the estate of a paternal grandmother she’s never known, Drina fights to discover who she is and where she belongs. She must carve out an identity all her own and discover what it means to be a “bird with the heart of a mountain.” Full of mystery, loss, and longing, this novel captures Drina’s quest to learn where she came from and to determine her own destiny.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Magic Lessons

Barbara Mariconda Why did I love this book?

Alice Hoffman’s Magic Lessons is the last in her Practical Magic series that chronicles 200 years of dark secrets that each generation of the Owens family must grapple with. We follow protagonist Maria Owens from her childhood in England to the Caribbean, Massachusetts, and finally New York, carrying her legacy with her. The complexity of mother-daughter relationships, generational wounds, family secrets, plus a good dose of witchcraft and magic holds the tension throughout not only this book, but across the entire series. Part historical fiction, part magical realism, part family saga – Hoffman shows us that, in the end, it’s really all about love. 

By Alice Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Magic Lessons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary novel tracing a centuries-old curse back to its beginning from the author of PRACTICAL MAGIC and THE DOVEKEEPERS

We first met the Owens in the glorious novel Practical Magic. We discovered the tragedy of the Owens siblings in Rules of Magic. Now we learn how it all began... with a baby abandoned in a snowy English field in the 1600s. Under the care of gentle Hannah Owens, little Maria learns about the 'Unnamed Arts'. Maria has a gift for them - a gift that may well prove her undoing.

When Maria is abandoned by the man she loves,…


Book cover of The Dutch House

Barbara Mariconda Why did I love this book?

The Dutch House is a novel about assumptions, misunderstandings, loss, and the secrets that shadow the lives of the Conroy family. Following WWII, Cyril Conroy purchases the extravagant Dutch House estate for his wife and two children, a place where he imagines their perfect, privileged lives would unfold. Told through the point of view of Cyril’s son Danny, we learn of the mysterious disappearance of his mother and watch as Cyril’s subsequent marriage and blended family leaves Danny and his sister Maeve outcasts in their own home. The Dutch House itself becomes a tragic symbol, a dark and foreboding backdrop for the unspoken questions and hidden wounds that dominate Danny and Maeve’s adult lives. Beautifully written, and powerfully narrated on audio by Tom Hanks, this is a must-read!

By Ann Patchett,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Dutch House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lose yourself in the story of a lifetime - the unforgettable Sunday Times bestseller 'Patchett leads us to a truth that feels like life rather than literature' Guardian Nominated for the Women's Prize 2020 A STORY OF TWO SIBLINGS, THEIR CHILDHOOD HOME, AND A PAST THAT THEY CAN'T LET GO. Like swallows, like salmon, we were the helpless captives of our migratory patterns. We pretended that what we had lost was the house, not our mother, not our father. We pretended that what we had lost had been taken from us by the person who still lived inside. In the…


Book cover of Miss Benson's Beetle

Barbara Mariconda Why did I love this book?

In Rachel Joyce’s Miss Benson’s Beetle we see, very clearly, how hazy half-formed memories and closely guarded family secrets can overshadow and drive a life. Surprisingly, prim, plain Margery Benson abruptly leaves her teaching position to set out on an expedition to New Caledonia as an amateur entomologist in search of a rare or possibly fictional golden beetle. With no training or practical experience Miss Benson hires an equally unqualified assistant. Together they head into this uncharted territory, meeting every imaginable obstacle. Through struggle and loss Miss Benson eventually unravels the mystery surrounding her beloved father’s death and reconciles this with the life she’s chosen. As always, Joyce’s unique quirky characters capture the heart and leave the reader believing in the power of healing.

By Rachel Joyce,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Miss Benson's Beetle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE WILBUR SMITH ADVENTURE WRITING PRIZE | BEST PUBLISHED NOVEL
WOMAN & HOME BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR and A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'The perfect escape novel for our troubled times.' PATRICK GALE

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in…


Book cover of The Book of Longings

Barbara Mariconda Why did I love this book?

Brilliant, feisty, and intrepid Ana, raised in privilege and wealth in ancient Israel, is the heroine of this painstakingly researched historical fiction novel. Her mother discourages Ana’s intellectual curiousity, forbidding Ana’s writings about the secrets of repressed, abused women of her day. Her adopted brother Judas is part of the resistance against the Roman occupation, and her father plans on marrying Ana to a rich older man. Amidst this complexity, Ana defies him and marries far beneath her station. Her groom? Jesus of Nazareth. After the crucifixion, Ana goes to her Aunt Yaltha in Alexandria where she helps Yaltha locate her long-lost daughter. The Book of Longings chronicles Ana’s challenge to overcome the family secrets and cultural repression meant to silence and subdue her. Compelling, intriguing, and powerful! A must-read!

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Book of Longings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An extraordinary novel . . . a triumph of insight and storytelling." -Associated Press

"A true masterpiece." -Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed

An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties…


Book cover of The Indigo Girl

Barbara Mariconda Why did I love this book?

This historical fiction novel opens in 1739 as sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas is left in charge of her father’s plantations when he mysteriously leaves to pursue his military ambitions. Boyd uses historical documents as the basis for Eliza’s story that unfolds amidst family drama, near financial ruin, political tensions, and unrest among the slave population. In an attempt to prevent bankruptcy, Eliza decides to grow indigo and sell it to the lucrative dye-making market. With little familial support, Eliza negotiates with a reticent slave to teach her the secret process of growing indigo in exchange for unlawfully teaching slaves to read. As is often the case, Eliza continues to weave the web of family secrets in order to survive – and ultimately, to thrive.   

By Natasha Boyd,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Indigo Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this incredible story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice, an extraordinary sixteen-year-old girl in Colonial South Carolina defies all expectations to achieve her dream.

An incredible story of dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family's three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to…


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Poetic Justice

By Fiona Forsyth,

Book cover of Poetic Justice

Fiona Forsyth Author Of Blood and Shadows

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Rome nerd Teacher Notebook hoarder Thwarted thespian

Fiona's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In the first century, Rome’s celebrated love poet Ovid finds himself in exile, courtesy of an irate Emperor, in the far-flung town of Tomis. Appalled at being banished to a barbarous region at the very edge of the Empire, Ovid soon discovers that he has a far more urgent - and potentially perilous - issue to address. A killer is at large in Tomis.

Somebody is slaughtering animals in a parody of ritual, and the Governor’s advisor Marcus Avitius is under pressure to apprehend the perpetrator. When the killer progresses from animal to human victims, Avitius reluctantly allies himself to the mercurial, tipsy Ovid.

Poetic Justice

By Fiona Forsyth,

What is this book about?

‘Poetic and haunting: Forsyth provides a captivating glimpse into the life of one of Ancient Rome's greatest writers.’ Steven Veerapen, author of the Simon Danforth Mysteries

9 CE.

Rome’s celebrated love poet Ovid finds himself in exile, courtesy of an irate Emperor, in the far-flung town of Tomis.

Appalled at being banished to a barbarous region at the very edge of the Empire, Ovid soon discovers that he has a far more urgent - and potentially perilous - issue to address. A killer is at large in Tomis.

Somebody is slaughtering animals in a parody of ritual, and the Governor’s…


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