Cecilia Fitzpatrick, devotedmother, successfulTupperware business ownerand efficient P&C President,has found a letter from herhusband.‘To my wife CeciliaFitzpatrick, to be opened onlyin the event of my death.’But Cecilia’s husband isn’t
dead, he’s on a business trip.And when she questions himabout it on the phone, Ceciliasenses something she hasn’texperienced before. JohnPaul is lying.What happens next changesCecilia’s formerly blissfulsuburban existence forever,and the consequences will belife changing for the mostunexpected people.
Praise for Liane Moriarty:‘Superb in technique . . . Allof her novels set themselvesextremely difficult tasks’SUNDAY AGE‘a gifted writer, whose lighttouch doesn’t stop herexploring darker themes’AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’SWEEKLY‘What [Moriarty] writes are
acute social comedies of thefeminine, where the domesticis more political than cosy’THE AGE‘Moriarty’s prose turns fromfunny through poignant tofrightening in an artful snap’PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
ContentsCoverAbout the husband’s secret
DedicationEpigraphPandoraMondayChapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveTuesdayChapter SixChapter Seven
Chapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter SeventeenChapter EighteenChapter NineteenWednesday
Chapter TwentyChapter Twenty-OneChapter Twenty-TwoChapter Twenty-ThreeChapter Twenty-FourChapter Twenty-FiveChapter Twenty-SixChapter Twenty-SevenChapter Twenty-EightChapter Twenty-NineChapter ThirtyChapter Thirty-OneChapter Thirty-Two
ThursdayChapter Thirty-ThreeChapter Thirty-FourChapter Thirty-FiveChapter Thirty-SixChapter Thirty-SevenChapter Thirty-EightChapter Thirty-NineChapter FortyChapter Forty-OneChapter Forty-TwoGood FridayChapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-FourChapter Forty-FiveChapter Forty-SixChapter Forty-SevenChapter Forty-EightEaster SaturdayChapter Forty-NineChapter FiftyChapter Fifty-OneChapter Fifty-TwoChapter Fifty-ThreeEaster Sunday
Chapter Fifty-FourChapter Fifty-FiveChapter Fifty-SixEpilogueAcknowledgementsAbout Liane MoriartyAlso by Liane MoriartyCopyright page
For Adam, George and Anna.And for Amelia.
To err is human; to forgivedivine.Alexander Pope
Poor, poor Pandora. Zeussends her off to marryEpimetheus, a not especiallybright man she’s never evenmet, along with a mysteriouscovered jar. Nobody tellsPandora a word about the jar.Nobody tells her not to openthe jar. Naturally, she opensthe jar. What else has she gotto do? How was she to knowthat all those dreadful ills
would go whooshing out toplague mankind forevermore, and that the only thingleft in the jar would be hope?Why wasn’t there a warninglabel?And then, everyone’s like,Oh, Pandora. Where’s yourwillpower? You were told notto open that box, you snoopygirl, you typical woman withyour insatiable curiosity, nowlook what you’ve gone anddone. When for one thing it
was a jar, not a box, and foranother, how many timesdoes she have to say it,nobody said a word about notopening it!
chapter oneIt was all because of theBerlin Wall.
If it wasn’t for the BerlinWall Cecilia would neverhave found the letter, andthen she wouldn’t be sittinghere, at the kitchen table,willing herself not to rip itopen.The envelope was greywith a fine layer of dust. Thewords on the front werewritten in a scratchy blueballpoint pen, the handwritingas familiar as her own. Sheturned it over. It was sealed
with a yellowing piece ofsticky tape. When was itwritten? It felt old, like it waswritten years ago, but therewas no way of knowing forsure.She wasn’t going to openit. It was absolutely clear thatshe should not open it. Shewas the most decisive personshe knew, and she’d alreadydecided not to open the letter,so there was nothing more tothink about.
Although, honestly, if shedid open it, what would bethe big deal? Any womanwould open it like a shot. Shelisted all her friends and whattheir responses would be ifshe were to ring them up rightnow and ask what theythought.Miriam Openheimer: Yup.Open it.Erica Edgecliff: Are youkidding, open it right thissecond.
Laura Marks: Yes youshould open it and then youshould read it out aloud tome.Sarah Sacks: There wouldbe no point asking Sarahbecause she was incapable ofmaking a decision. If Ceciliaasked her whether she wantedtea or coffee, she would sitfor a full minute, her foreheadfurrowed as she agonisedover the pros and cons ofeach beverage before finally
saying, ‘Coffee! No, wait,tea!’ A decision like this onewould give her a brainseizure.MahaliaRamachandran:Absolutely not. It would becompletely disrespectful toyour husband. You must notopen it.Mahalia could be a littletoo sure of herself at timeswith those huge brown ethicaleyes.Cecilia left the letter sitting
on the kitchen table and wentto put the kettle on.Damn that Berlin Wall, andthat Cold War, and whoeverit was who sat there back innineteen-forty-wheneveritwas, mulling over theproblem of what to do withthose ungrateful Germans; theguy who suddenly clicked hisfingers and said, ‘Got it, byjove! We’ll build a great bigbloody wall and keep thebuggers in!’
Presumably he hadn’tsounded like a Britishsergeant major.Esther would know whofirst came up with the idea forthe Berlin Wall. Esther wouldprobably be able to give herhis date of birth. It wouldhave been a man of course.Only a man could come upwith something so ruthless:so essentially stupid and yetbrutally effective.Was that sexist?
She filled the kettle,switched it on, and cleanedthe droplets of water in thesink with a paper towel sothat it shone.One of the mums fromschool, who had three sonsalmost exactly the same agesas Cecilia’s three daughters,had said that some remarkCecilia had made was ‘ateeny weeny bit sexist’, justbefore they’d started the FeteCommitteemeetinglast
week.Ceciliacouldn’tremember what she’d said,but she’d only been joking.Anyway, weren’t womenallowed to be sexist for thenext two thousand years orso, until they’d evened up thescore?Maybe she was sexist.The kettle boiled. Sheswirled an Earl Grey teabagand watched the curls ofblack spread through thewater like ink. There were
worse things to be than sexist.For example, you could bethe sort of person whopinched your fingers togetherwhile using the words ‘teenyweeny’.She looked at her tea andsighed. A glass of winewould be nice right now, butshe’d given up alcohol forLent. Only six days to go.She had a bottle of expensiveshiraz ready to open on EasterSunday, when thirty-five
adultsandtwenty-threechildren were coming tolunch, so she’d need it.Although, of course, she wasan old hand at entertaining.She hosted Easter, Mother’sDay, Father’s Day andChristmas. John-Paul had fiveyounger brothers, all marriedwith kids. So it was quite acrowd. Planning was the key.Meticulous planning.She picked up her tea andtook it over to the table. Why
had she given up wine forLent? Polly was moresensible. She’d given upstrawberry jam. Cecilia hadnever seen Polly show morethan a passing interest instrawberry jam, althoughnow, of course, she wasalways catching her standingat the open fridge staring at itlongingly. The power ofdenial.‘Esther!’ she called out.Esther was in the next
room with her sisterswatching The Biggest Loserwhile they shared a giant bagof salt and vinegar chips leftover from the Australia Daybarbecue months earlier.Cecilia did not know why herthree slim daughters lovedwatching overweight peoplesweat and cry and starve. Itdidn’t appear to be teachingthem healthier eating habits.She should go in andconfiscate the bag of chips,
except they’d all eatensalmon and steamed broccolifor dinner without complaint,and she didn’t have thestrength for an argument.She heard a voice from thetelevision boom, ‘You getnothing for nothing!’That wasn’t such a badsentiment for her daughters tohear. No one knew it betterthan Cecilia! But still, shedidn’t like the expressions offaint revulsion that flitted
across their smooth youngfaces. She was always sovigilant about not makingnegativebodyimagecomments in front of herdaughters, although the samecould not be said for herfriends. Just the other day,Miriam Openheimer had said,loud enough for all theirimpressionable daughters tohear, ‘God, would you look atmy stomach!’ and squeezedher flesh between her
fingertips as if it weresomethingvile.Great,Miriam, as if our daughtersdon’t already get a millionmessages every day tellingthem to hate their bodies.Actually,Miriam’sstomach was getting a littlepudgy.‘Esther!’ she called outagain.‘What is it?’ Esther calledback in a patient, put-uponvoice that Cecilia suspected
was an unconscious imitationof her own.‘Whose idea was it to buildthe Berlin Wall?’‘Well, they’re pretty sure itwas Nikita Khrushchev!’Esther answered immediately,pronouncingtheexoticsounding name with greatrelish and her own peculiarinterpretation of a Russianaccent. ‘He was like, thePrime Minister of Russia,except he was the Premier.
But it could have been –’Her sisters respondedinstantly with their usualimpeccable courtesy.‘Shut up, Esther!’‘Esther! I can’t hear thetelevision!‘Thankyoudarling!’Cecilia sipped her tea andimagined herself going backthrough time and putting thatKhrushchev in his place.No, Mr Khrushchev, youmay not have a wall. It will
not prove that Communismworks. It will not work outwell at all. Now, look, I agreecapitalism isn’t the be all andend all! Let me show you mylast credit card bill. But youreally need to put yourthinking cap back on.And then fifty years later,Cecilia wouldn’t have foundthis letter that was making herfeel so . . . what was theword?Unfocused. That was it.
She liked to feel focused.She was proud of her abilityto focus. Her daily life wasmade up of a thousand tinypieces – ‘Need coriander’,‘Isabel’s haircut’, ‘Who willwatch Polly at ballet onTuesday while I take Estherto speech therapy?’ – like oneof those giant jigsaws thatIsabel used to spend hoursdoing. And yet Cecilia, whohad no patience for puzzles,knew exactly where each tiny
piece of her life belonged,and where it needed to beslotted in next.And okay, maybe the lifeCecilia was leading wasn’tthat unusual or impressive.She was a school mum and apart-timeTupperwareconsultant, not an actress oran actuary or a . . . poet livingin Vermont. (Cecilia hadrecently discovered that LizBrogan, a girl from highschool, was now a prize-
winning poet living inVermont. Liz, who ate cheeseand Vegemite sandwichesand was always losing herbus pass. It took all ofCecilia’sconsiderablestrength of character not tofind that annoying. Not thatshe wanted to write poetry.But still. You would havethought that if anyone wasgoing to lead an ordinary lifeit would have been LizBrogan.) Of course, Cecilia
had never aspired to anythingother than ordinariness. HereI am, a typical suburbanmum, she sometimes caughtherself thinking, as ifsomeone had accused her ofholding herself out to besomething else, somethingsuperior.Other mothers talked aboutfeeling overwhelmed, aboutthe difficulties of focusing onone thing, and they werealways saying, ‘How do you
do it all, Cecilia?’, and shedidn’t know how to answerthem. She didn’t actuallyunderstand what they foundso difficult.But now, for some reason,everything felt somehow atrisk. It wasn’t logical.Maybe it wasn’t anythingto do with the letter. Maybe itwas hormonal. She was‘possibly perimenopausal’,according to Dr McArthur.(‘Oh, I am not!’ Cecilia had
said, automatically, as ifresponding to a gentle,humorous insult.)Perhaps this was a case ofthat vague anxiety she knewsome women experienced.Other women. She’d alwaysthought anxious people werecute.Dearlittleanxious people like SarahSacks. She wanted to pat theirworry-filled heads.Perhaps if she opened theletter and saw that it was
nothing she would geteverything back in focus. Shehad things to do. Two basketsof laundry to fold. Threeurgent phone calls to make.Gluten-free slice to bake forthe gluten-intolerant membersof the School Website ProjectGroup (ie Janine Davidson)which would be meetingtomorrow.There were other thingsbeside the letter that could bemaking her feel anxious.
The sex thing, for example.That was always at the backof her mind.She frowned and ran herhands down the sides of herwaist. Her ‘oblique muscles’according to her Pilatesteacher. Oh, look, the sexthing was nothing. It was notactually on her mind. Sherefused to let it be on hermind. It was of noconsequence.It was true, perhaps, that
ever since that morning lastyear she’d been aware of anunderlying sense of fragility,a new understanding that alife of coriander and laundrycould be stolen in an instant,that your ordinariness couldvanish and suddenly you’re awoman on your knees, yourface lifted to the sky andsome women are running tohelp, but others are alreadyaverting their heads, with thewords not articulated, but felt:
Don’t let this touch me.Cecilia saw it again for thethousandthtime:LittleSpiderman flying. She wasone of the women who ran.Well, of course she was,throwing open her car door,even though she knew thatnothing she did would makeany difference. It wasn’t herschool, her neighbourhood,her parish. None of herchildren had ever played withthe little boy. She’d never had
coffee with the woman on herknees. She just happened tobe stopped at the lights on theother side of the intersectionwhen it happened. A littleboy, probably about five,dressed in a red and blue fullbody Spiderman suit waswaiting at the side of theroad, holding his mother’shand. It was Book Week.That’s why the little boy wasdressed up. Cecilia waswatching him, thinking,
Mmmm, actually Spidermanis not a character from abook, when for no reason thatshe could see, the little boydropped his mother’s handand stepped off the kerb intothe traffic. Cecilia screamed.She also, she rememberedlater, instinctively banged herfi
About the husband’s secret. Dedication Epigraph Pandora Monday Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Tuesday Chapter Six Chapter Seven. Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen