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Book Review: Family Secrets (Secrets and Second Chances)

Family Secrets (Secrets and Second Chances). Donna M. Zadunajsky. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, December 22, 2014, Trade Paperback, Kindle, and Audible, 466 pages.

Reviewed by Gail Galvan.

Is it ever too late to change, to try to right the things that have gone terribly wrong? That is one of the questions that Family Secrets: Secrets and Second Chances attempts to answer. The main character, Alexis, hits devastating roadblocks in her complicated life. Not only does she face an unimaginable fight against breast cancer, but also her heart aches when she realizes that she was never the mother her son, Colton, needed and deserved.

Alexis works long hours at her dream job—she is an astronaut at NASA—and her consuming desire to be a part of the next space shuttle launch team has always interfered with her ability to be an attentive mother to Colton and a good wife to her husband, Jay. When Jay commits suicide, Colton blames his mother and they grow even further apart.

Alexis knows things must change, but is at a loss as to how to affect that change. She thinks about her life this way: “Was life fair? Not in the least. Not when you worked your ass off for everything you’ve ever dreamed of and poof, in an instant, with one sentence . . . it was gone! Why bother to dream at all if your dreams and schemes never come to fruition?” A little later in the book, though, her thoughts become more positive: “But, if we don’t have our dreams and goals to motivate and guide us, where would we be in this world? Lost, stumbling aimlessly, and not driven by desire, blood, sweat, and tears!”

As Alexis begins her agonizing battle against cancer, she wonders about second chances and tries to become a loving, caring mother. But Colton wants no part of it, and he certainly does not believe his father committed suicide. He digs until the family’s secrets begin to unfold. The story twists and turns, catching the reader off guard in the suspenseful search for the answers to Jay’s death.

I always enjoy and appreciate courageous characters, and both Alexis and Colton prove to be fighters as they forge ahead for truth and more peaceful, loving family ties and times. Although I wished the page count had been a little less, I found the book to be a good read. Parents who struggle to stay connected with their children, and anyone who has endured a struggle with cancer either firsthand or with a loved one, will certainly identify with the story.

This is Zadunajsky’s third novel. She also writes children’s books, mainly stories about her daughter, Tayla. Zadunajsky graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature. She lives in Illinois with her daughter, husband, a dog, and two cats.


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