The Secret Between Us

The Secret Between Us

by Barbara Delinsky


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Nothing will break this mother-daughter bond. Not even the truth.

Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party when their car hits a man running in the dark. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident. Her decision then turns into a deception that takes on a life of its own and threatens the special bond between mother and daughter.

The Secret Between Us is an unforgettable story about making bad choices for the right reasons and the terrible consequences of a lie gone wrong. Once again, Barbara Delinksy has delivered a riveting study of family and a superbly crafted novel, perfectly targeted to reading groups and fans of provocative fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767925198
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/04/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 604,243
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Barbara Delinsky is the author of more than seventeen bestselling novels with over twenty million copies in print. She has been published in twenty-five languages worldwide. Barbara lives with her family in New England.


Newton, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

August 9, 1945

Place of Birth:

Boston, Massachusetts


B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

They were arguing in the seconds before impact. Later, Deborah Monroe would agonize about that, wondering whether, had she been focused solely on the road, she might have seen something sooner and been able to prevent what occurred—because the argument had been nearly as distracting as the storm. She and her daughter never argued. They were similar in looks, temperament, and interests. Deborah rarely had to tweak Grace—her son, Dylan, yes, but not Grace. Grace usually understood what was expected and why.

This night, though, the girl fought back. “You’re getting hyper about nothing, Mom. Nothing happened.”

“You said Megan’s parents were going to be home,” Deborah reminded her.

“That’s what Megan told me.”

“I would have thought twice if I’d known there would be a crowd.”

“We were studying.”

“You, Megan, and Stephie,” Deborah said, and, yes, the textbooks were there, damp from Grace’s dash to the car in the rain, “plus Becca, and Michael, Ryan, Justin, and Kyle, none of whom were supposed to be there. Three girls study. Four girls and four boys make a party. Sweetie, it’s pouring rain, and even above the noise of that, I could hear shrieking laughter all the way from the car.”

Deborah didn’t know if Grace was looking guilty. Long brown curls hid broad–set eyes, a straight nose, and a full upper lip. She did hear the snap of her daughter’s gum; its spearmint shrouded the smell of wet books. But she quickly returned her own eyes to the road, or what she could see of it, despite the wipers working double time. Visibility on this stretch was poor even on the best of nights. There were no streetlights, and moonshine rarely penetrated the trees.

Tonight the road was a funnel. Rain rushed at them, swallowing the beam of the headlights and thrashing against the windshield—and yes, April meant rain, but this was absurd. Had it been as bad on the way out, Deborah would never have let Grace drive home. But Grace had asked, and Deborah’s husband—ex–husband—too often accused her of being overprotective.

They were going slowly enough; Deborah would repeat that many times in subsequent days, and forensics would bear it out. They were less than a minute from home and knew this part of the road well. But the darkness was dense, the rain an unreckoned force. Yes, Deborah knew that her daughter had to actually drive in order to learn how, but she feared this was too much, too soon.
Deborah hated rain. Grace didn’t seem fazed.

“We finished studying,” the girl argued around the gum in her mouth. Her hands were tight on the wheel, perfectly positioned, nothing wrong there. “It was hot inside, and the AC wasn’t on yet, so we opened the windows. We were taking a break. Like, is it a crime to laugh? I mean, it’s bad enough my mother had to come to get me—”

“Excuse me,” Deborah cut in, “but what was the alternative? You can’t drive by yourself on a learner’s permit. Ryan and Kyle may have their licenses, but, by law, they’re not allowed to take friends in the car without an adult, and besides, we live on the opposite end of town from the others—and what’s so bad about your mother picking you up at ten o’clock on a weeknight? Sweetie, you’re barely sixteen.”

Exactly,” Grace said with feeling. “I’m sixteen, Mom. I’ll have my real license in four months. So what’ll happen then? I'll be driving myself places all the time—because we don’t only live on the opposite end of town from everyone else, we live in the middle of nowhere, because Dad decided he had to buy a gazillion acres to build a McMansion in the forest, which he then decided he didn’t want, so he left it and us and moved to Vermont to live with his long–lost love from twenty–five years ago—”

“Grace–” Deborah couldn't go there just then. Grace might feel abandoned by her father, but the loss hit Deborah harder. Her marriage wasn’t supposed to end. That hadn’t been in the plan.

“Okay, forget Dad,” Grace went on, “but once I get my license, I’ll be driving places alone, and you won’t see who’s there or whether there’s a parent around, or whether we’re studying or having a party. You’re going to have to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” Deborah said, defensive herself now, but pleading. “It’s the others I don’t trust. Weren’t you the one who told me Kyle brought a six–pack to the pool party at Katherine’s house last weekend?”

“None of us had any. Katherine’s parents made him leave.”

“Katherine’s parents. Exactly.”

Deborah heard her growl. “Mom. We were studying.”

Deborah was about to list the things that could happen when teenagers were studying—things she had seen both growing up, when her father was the only family doctor in town, and now, being in practice with him and treating dozens of local teenagers—when a flash of movement entered her line of sight on the right. In quick succession came the jolt of a weighty thud against the front of the car, the slam of brakes, the squeal of tires. Her seat belt tightened, holding her while the car skidded on the flooded pavement, fishtailed, and spun, all in the space of seconds. When it came to a stop, they were facing backward.

For a minute, Deborah didn’t hear the rain over the thunder of her heart. Then, above it, came Grace’s frightened cry. “What was that?

“Are you okay?”

What was that?” the girl repeated, her voice shaking this time.

Deborah was starting to shake, too, but her daughter was upright, belted in, clearly okay. Scrabbling to release her seat belt, Deborah hiked up the hood of her slicker and ran out to search for whatever it was they had hit. The headlights reflected off the wet road, but beyond that paltry light, it was totally dark.

Ducking back into the car, she fumbled through the glove box for a flashlight. Outside again, she searched the roadside, but saw nothing that remotely resembled a downed animal.

Grace materialized at her elbow. "Was it a deer?" she asked, sounding terrified.

Deborah's heart continued to pound. “I don’t know. Sweetie, get back in the car. You don’t have a jacket.” It was a warm enough spring night; she just didn’t want Grace seeing what they had hit.

“It had to be a deer,” Grace cried, “not even hurt, just ran off into the woods—what else could it be?”

Deborah didn’t think a deer wore a running suit with a stripe up the side, which was what she swore she had seen in the split second prior to impact. A running suit meant something human.

She walked along the edge of the road, searching the low shrubs with her light. “Hey,” she called out to whoever was there, “are you hurt? Hello? Let me know where you are!”

Grace hovered at her shoulder. “Like, it came from nowhere, Mom—no person would be out here in the rain, so maybe it was a fox or a raccoon—or a deer, it had to be a deer.”

“Get back in the car, Grace,” Deborah repeated. The words were barely out when she heard something, and it wasn't the idling car. Nor was it the whine of wind in the trees or the rain splattering everything in sight.

The sound came again, definitely a moan. She followed it to a point at the side of the road and searched again, but it was another minute before she found its source. The running shoe was barely visible in the wet undergrowth some four feet from the pavement, and the black pants rising from it, half hidden under a low branch of a hemlock, had a blue stripe. A second leg was bent in an odd angle—broken, she guessed—and the rest of him was crumpled against the base of a tree.

Supine, he ran no risk of suffocation in the forest undergrowth, but his eyes were closed. Short dark hair was plastered to his forehead. Scrambling through a clump of wet ferns, Deborah directed her flashlight to his head, but didn’t see any blood other than that from a mean scrape on his jaw.

Omigod!” Grace wailed.

Deborah felt for a pulse at his neck. It was only when she found it that her own began beating again. “Can you hear me?” she asked, leaning close. “Open your eyes for me.” He didn't respond.

Omigod!” Grace cried hysterically. “Do you know who that is, it’s my history teacher!”

Trying to think quickly, Deborah pulled her daughter back onto the road and toward the car. She could feel the girl trembling. As calmly as she could, Deborah said, “I want you to run home, honey. It isn’t more than half a mile, and you’re already soaked. Dylan’s alone. He’ll be scared.” She imagined a small face at the pantry window, eyes large, frightened, and magnified behind thick Harry Potter glasses.

“What'll you do?” Grace asked in a high, wavery voice.

“Call the police, then sit with Mr. McKenna until an ambulance comes.”

“I didn’t see him, I swear, I didn’t see him,” wailed Grace. “Can’t you do something for him, Mom?”

“Not much.” Deborah turned off the engine, turned on the hazards. “I don't see any profuse bleeding, and I don’t dare move him.”

“Will he die?”

Deborah grabbed her phone. “We weren’t going fast. We couldn’t have hit him that hard.”

“But he got way over there.”

“He must have rolled.”

“He isn’t moving.”

“He may have a concussion or be in shock.” There were plenty of worse possibilities, most of which, unfortunately, she knew.

“Shouldn’t I stay here with you?”

“There's nothing you can do here. Go, sweetie.” She cupped her daughter’s cheek, frantic to spare her this, at least. “I’ll be home soon.”

Grace’s hair was drenched, separating into long, wet coils. Rain dripped from a gentle chin. Eyes wide, she spoke in a frightened rush. “Did you see him, Mom? Like, why would anybody be walking on the road in the rain? I mean, it’s dark, how could I possibly see him, and why didn’t he see us? There are no other lights here.”

Deborah punched in 9–1–1 with one hand and took Grace’s arm with the other. “Go, Grace. I need you home with Dylan. Now.” The dispatcher picked up after a single ring. Deborah knew the voice. Carla McKay was a patient of hers. She worked as the civilian dispatcher several nights a week.

“Leyland Police. This call is being recorded.”

“Carla, it’s Dr. Monroe,” she said and shooed Grace off with a hand. “There’s been an accident. I’m on the rim road, maybe a half mile east of my house. My car hit a man. We need an ambulance.”

“How badly is he hurt?”

“He’s unconscious, but he’s breathing. I’d say there's a broken leg, but I’m not sure what else. The only cut I see is superficial, but I can’t look more without moving him.”

“Is anyone else hurt?”

“No. How fast can you get someone here?”

“I’ll call now.”

Deborah closed the phone. Grace hadn’t moved. Soaking wet, curls long and bedraggled, she looked very young and frightened.

Frightened herself, Deborah stroked wet hair back from her daughter’s cheeks. On a note of quiet urgency, she said, “Grace, I need you home with Dylan.”

“I was driving.”

“You’ll be more of a help to me if you’re with Dylan. Please, sweetie?”

“It was my fault.”

Grace. Can we not argue about this? Here, take my jacket.” She was starting to slip it off when the girl turned and broke into a run. In no time, she had disappeared in the rain.

Pulling her hood up again, Deborah hurried back into the woods. The smell of wet earth and hemlock permeated the air, but she knew what blood smelled like and imagined that, too. Again, she looked for something beyond the scrape on Calvin McKenna’s jaw. She saw nothing.

He remained unconscious, but his pulse was strong. She could monitor that and, if it faltered, could manually pump his chest. Studying the angle of his leg, she suspected that his injury involved the hip, but a hip injury was doable. A spine injury was something else, which was why she wouldn’t move him. The EMTs would have a backboard and head immobilizer. Far better to wait.

It was easier said than done. It was an endless ten minutes of blaming herself for letting Grace drive, of taking Calvin McKenna's pulse, trying to see what else might be hurt, wondering what had possessed him to be out in the rain, taking his pulse again, cursing the location of their house and the irresponsibility of her ex–husband, before she saw the flashing lights of the cruiser. There was no siren. They were in too rural a part of town for that.

Waving her flashlight, she ran back onto the road and was at the cruiser’s door when Brian Duffy stepped out. In his mid–forties, he was one of a dozen officers on the town force. He also coached Little League. Her son, Dylan, had been on his team for two years.

"Are you all right, Dr. Monroe?" he asked, fitting a plastic–covered cap over his crewcut. He was already wearing a rain jacket.

“I’m fine. But my car hit Calvin McKenna.” She led him back to the woods. “I can’t tell how badly he’s hurt.” Once over the ferns, she knelt and checked his pulse again. It remained steady. She directed her flashlight at his face; its beam was joined by the officer’s.

“Cal?” she called futilely. “Cal? Can you hear me?”

“What was he doing out here?” the officer asked.

Deborah sat back on her heels. “I have no idea. Walking? Running?”

“In the rain? That’s strange.”

“Particularly here,” she said. “Do you know where he lives?” It certainly wasn’t nearby. There were four houses in the circle of a mile, and she knew the residents of each.

“He and his wife have a place over by the train station,” Brian replied. “That’s a few miles from here. I take it you don’t treat him?”

“No. Grace has him in school this year, so I heard him speak at the open house last fall. He’s a serious guy, a tough marker. That’s about all I know.” She was reaching for his pulse again when the road came alive with light. A second cruiser arrived, its roof bar thrumming a raucous blue and white. An ambulance was close behind.

Deborah didn’t immediately recognize the EMTs; they were young, likely new. But she did know the man who emerged from the second cruiser. John Colby was the police chief. In his late–fifties, he would have been retired had he been working anywhere else, but he had grown up in Leyland. It was understood that he would keep working as long as his health allowed. Deborah guessed that would be a while. He and his wife were patients of theirs. His wife had a problem with allergens–dander, pollen, dust—that had resulted in adult–onset asthma, but John’s greatest problem, beyond a pot belly, was insomnia. He worked days; he worked nights. He claimed that being active kept his blood pressure down, and since his blood pressure was chronically low, Deborah couldn’t argue.

Reading Group Guide

1. What did the scenes depicting the accident reveal about the family dynamics between Deborah and Grace? How would you or your parents have reacted in a similar situation?

2. How does Deborah reconcile her role as a mother with her role as a daughter? What aspects of her upbringing does she try to avoid repeating? How did your perception of her family shift throughout the novel?

3. Do Jill and Deborah remember their mother the same way? How is their family affected by her absence? What accounts for the distinctions between Jill’s and Deborah’s paths in life?

4. Discuss the power and lack of power created by the many secrets woven throughout the novel. Which deceptions (including self-deceptions) harm the characters the most? Which deceptions are unavoidable?

5. Compare Grace and Dylan. How do they cope with their vulnerabilities? Do they respond to their parents’ divorce in essentially the same way, or are their temperaments distinct?

6. Why was Calvin so secretive during his lifetime? What do his brother’s observations about their childhood tell us about Calvin’s outlook on life? How did your initial theories compare to the truth of Calvin’s death?

7. Why was it difficult for Karen to realize the truth about Hal’s infidelity? What sustains marriages such as theirs?

8. In what way do Deborah and her father view their role as physicians differently? How do they define the keys to healing?

9. What does it take for Deborah to trust Tom? How might their relationship have unfolded without the tension of a possible lawsuit on the part of Calvin’s widow? In Tom’s case, did the law help or hinder his quest for the truth?

10. Is Grace’s wish to take responsibility for the accident related to her feelings about her parents’ divorce? Or is she simply an honest young woman who wants to do the right thing? Does Greg respond appropriately to her self–destructive behavior?

11. What was Greg looking for when he married Rebecca? How was his perception of himself and his family transformed in the novel’s closing chapters?

12. Why does Grace give Danielle the cold shoulder when she so badly needs someone to talk to? What do their fathers have in common?

13. What is it like to live in a close-knit community such as Leyland? On what basis do the residents judge one another? Who determines who the power brokers will be? How would Deborah and Grace’s situation have changed if the accident had taken place in a large city?

14. In the end, was justice served by John’s decision? What was his share of the responsibility in perpetuating the secret?

15. What makes the rain an appropriate sign for representing transformations, both when Deborah is with Tom and in the final images of Grace?

16. In what way does The Secret Between Us underscore dilemmas of truth and dishonesty explored in Barbara Delinsky’s previous works? What distinguishes this novel from the other Delinsky fiction you have read?

17. What is the most significant secret you have ever tried to keep? What led you to reveal the truth?

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Secret Between Us 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 85 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is about a mother named Deborah and her daughter, Grace who one night they are driving home and Deborah and Grace are arguing about what Grace was really doing at her friends house before her mom came to pick her up. It is raining like crazy and very hard to see especially for Grace who is driving when all of a sudden they hear a "thud". they find out a few minutes later that it was Grace's teacher from school and she had just ran him over! Deborah does not want her daughter to take the blame so she tells her daughter to leave before the police arrive. Now Grace and her mother have to face a hard ship for what they have done and keep it a secret from EVERYONE. What I liked about this book was the whole situation between the mother and daughter and by the end their relationship has grown even stronger. What I disliked about this book was the ending, I feel that the ending was rushed and I didn't get enough time to let the ending sink in. The moral of the story is to not lie especially not to authorties and to stick with your family through thick and thin. As a teenager this book relates to me because I am a sixteen year old girl who is quiet and keeps her feelings to herself and lets everthing bother her just like Grace.
TangledUpInBlue19 More than 1 year ago
I must say that I love the few books that I have read by Barbara Delinsky. Of course, when I purchase them, I do so in no particular order, and often times read a book from 1993 and then read a book from 2006 next. The Secret Between Us is a great story of the strong relationship between mother and daughter. All too often, mothers forget that their children have strong emotions and are capable of heading down a shame-spiral if they feel guilt. "Mother knows best" sometimes does not apply, hence this book. It begins with a very scary automobile accident involving a pedestrian. The mother, a very well-respected family doctor in a small town, takes matters into her own hands and simply forgets that we are responsible for our own actions in the world. From page one, I was immediately captivated by Delinsky's words, and I found myself often wondering what I would do in the same situation.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
THE SECRET BETWEEN US deals with the interactions of family. How far a mother will go to protect her child, how a child reacts to knowing they've done something that can never be taken back. It's not a bad story, but it wasn't as fully evolved as I would have liked it to be.

The main problem, for me, was the ending, which I saw as a total cop-out. In the end, the resolutions came too easily, and in ways that made everyone turn out to be a good guy. Things rarely work this way in real life.

This isn't Barbara Delinsky's best story, but it's still good for reading about a family who will do anything to keep itself whole.
BookLover526 More than 1 year ago
The premise of this book is interesting but the execution is lousy. Repetitive and obvious. I also could see the relationship with the dead man's brother coming a mile away. And the ending was just too neat and tidy. Also, maybe it's different in what I presume was Massachusetts, but in Florida the DA (State Attorney) does not get involved in civil suits only criminal, so I found this part of the plot annoying because it was unrealistic. This is the second Delinsky book I've read and I must say she's 0 for 2 in my book (pardon the pun)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I REALLY tried to finish reading this book but after 3 weeks, I gave up. The love interest between the mom and the dead man's brother was sooo predictable that I almost wanted to throw up. I cant believe anyone would write like that. It's not just that one part that was predictable, it was the whole entire book. I felt like it was written by a juvenile writer. I didn't even have the interest to find out what happened at the end. I wasted three weeks but I am glad that I didn't waste more time to read the ending.
reader-T on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This should have been a good 'story'. However, despite persevering with it (it was an easy read after all), I just found that it bugged me. The whole process was too quick. Everything happened within a space of two weeks! The accident, the results from the accident reconstruction, the demise of Grace. And Deborah was so damn nice and so perfect (yes, one of the underlying themes), as to make her annoying and unlikeable! .....And at one stage Deborah referred to Grace - her 16 year old high school daughter - as being premed ... at high school? .... is that possible?
Ebba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Novel about family realationships and small town living. A car accident changes lives forever. Sweet story line, but nothing that really kept me listening for hours past my bedtime.
Spibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down! Excellent novel on how our choices can affect those we love - with not so good consequences. Barbara Delinsky always delivers.
skrishna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because I really enjoyed Family Tree, but I just couldn't get into it.
busyreadin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One little lie can lead to so much heartache! While driving home on a rainy night, Grace hits and kills a man. Her mother, Deborah, sends her home on foot, and takes the blame for the accident. The aftermath might tear the family apart.
nglofile_reads_2008 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not a favorite, but I can see how this would be a good choice for a book discussion group.
re_re_98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. The author did an excellent job showing how not telling the truth can quickly spiral out of control. I cannot even begin to imagine the terror, fear, and guilt that the young lady had weighing on her mind.
marian50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Starts out promising, but then becomes repetitious and too drawn out. I didn't care for the ending.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A car accident changes the dynamics of an already-troubled family. Delinsky tries to make the story compelling but there is no real tension here and the resolution is somewhat unsatsifying. An easy read but also easily forgettable.
MsKelly65 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Barbara Delinsky effectively and dramatically explores the delicate relationships between family members, espcially mothers and daughters in _The Secret Between Us_. I found the book refreshing despite it's heavy subject matter and read it cover to cover within forty-eight hours. I recommend _The Secret Between Us_ to lovers of modern-day mysteries and dramas, and those who are interested in the intricacies of family expectations and bonds.
cloedoris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a goood book :) the first I've read by this author
KathyWoodall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Deborah Monroe and her daughter Grace are headed home during a rainstorm when the unthinkable happens. Someone runs right out in front of them and is struck by the car when they are unable to stop in time. After getting out of the car and searching for the person they hit, they find him laying by a tree still alive but seriously hurt. Deborah calls 911 for an ambulance and police to come. Grace realizes in horror that the person laying there is her high school history teacher. Deborah tells Grace to go home and take care of her younger brother while she deals with the police. When Deborah makes the decision to protect her daughter, she doesn't tell the police that it was Grace that was behind the wheel of the car when the accident happened. Guilt is heaped on Grace when she finds out that her history teacher has died and her mother has taken the blame for the accident. She hasn't told her mother she had drank 2 beers before getting behind the wheel of the car that night.It seems everyone in this story has a secret. When they are revealed, they change the lives of everyone around them.The author has an interesting concept for a novel but fails to deliver in the end. She introduces the characters so fast and with little development I honestly didn't care for any of them or their so called secrets. I just felt kinda cheated by the end of the book.
RPerritt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. This is the first book I have read by this author, but definatly not the last. It was a very easy read.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mother picks daughter up at a party; daughter hits her teacher on the way home; teacher ultimately dies. Mother lies and says she was driving, then happens to fall in love with the teacher's brother-in-law. Oh and by the way the daughter was drinking and the mother's father is an alcoholic. How does all this get resolved? I cared only enough to struggle throughto the end of this ultimately improbable highly irritating book.
mrgntaylor More than 1 year ago
The story had an awful plot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Secrets at every turn creates suspense