She set alight a church full of children, including members of her own family. Then she almost let her psychologically disabled brother take the blame. Yet Maggie Lockwood is impossible to hate. Led by her heart rather than her head, Maggie is a normal teenager who lived her life in the shadow of her brother.
Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain is the sequel to the highly acclaimed and incredibly popular Before the Storm. It tells the tale of Maggie trying to reintegrate herself in to the community and correct her mistakes following her release from jail. Much to the disgust of the community, Maggie’s sentence was just one year. On the day she is freed locals have gathered to demonstrate against her release; after all she killed three people in that fire and permanently scarred many more both physically and emotionally. What the community doesn’t realise is that Maggie’s conscience has sentenced her to a lifetime of guilt and regret.
Keith and his mother, Sara, are among Maggie’s biggest haters. From a cool, popular boy, Keith has become dependent on his mother. Following the horrendous burn scars that dominate his face and arms, his friends have deserted him and no girl is interested. The situation is made all the more complex when Maggie learns that Keith is her half brother. The father she thought was perfect had an affair with her mother’s best friend. Then Keith’s mother disappears.
This is narrative full of twists and turns. Far from having an easy ride Chamberlain subjects each character to a rollercoaster of challenges, and each is harder to stomach than the last. Yet despite the complex plot Chamberlain’s characters have a depth that is refreshing for popular fiction. Her characters are multifaceted; they have a history and an array of persona’s akin to real life people. Despite Maggie’s actions Chamberlain allows her to be likeable, and Keith, even though he is a victim, has an irritating self pity. By not adhering to literary stereotypes Chamberlain provides memorable characters, a believable plot, and a story that follows a path of heart wrenching lows and tearful highs.