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There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal’s mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light. In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family’s past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing their stories draws the three women closer, the music of their voices and care for one another easing the pain of memory. Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse—the harsh legacies of plantation slavery—permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island’s plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family’s new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.


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There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal’s mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light. In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family’s past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing their stories draws the three women closer, the music of their voices and care for one another easing the pain of memory. Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse—the harsh legacies of plantation slavery—permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island’s plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family’s new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.

30 review for Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad

  1. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Updated August 21, 2019 Re-read this book for the BookOfCinz book club and I cannot get over how important this read is. I cannot stop recommending this book. If you are a Caribbean Woman or from Caribbean heritage this book is a must read. This debut novel by Krystal Sital unpacks so many issues that Caribbean Women face, particularly their mothers and grandmothers. The book is basically a memoir/biography of sorts for Krystal, her Mom and her Grandmother. When Krystal's Grandfather accidenta Updated August 21, 2019 Re-read this book for the BookOfCinz book club and I cannot get over how important this read is. I cannot stop recommending this book. If you are a Caribbean Woman or from Caribbean heritage this book is a must read. This debut novel by Krystal Sital unpacks so many issues that Caribbean Women face, particularly their mothers and grandmothers. The book is basically a memoir/biography of sorts for Krystal, her Mom and her Grandmother. When Krystal's Grandfather accidentally falls and is rushed to the hospital, there seems to be no urgency by her Grandmother in trying to save her husband's life. When Krystal asks her Mom, "Why Grandma doesn't want Grandpa to live? the secrets that were kept for generations started unravelling. This book covers a lot and in such an authentic and unapologetic way. Mother-Daughter relationships are explored, racial tension in Trinidad and Tobago, Domestic Abuse, Mental Health, Family Secrets/Dynamics and the how being uneducated as a woman impacts quality of life. I could talk for hours on each theme and how Sital expertly addresses it in this novel, but I think you need to read this one for yourself. Coming from a Caribbean background and reading this, I couldn't help but this, "this is so damn typical of us!". Families are rife with secrets that never gets aired because of shame, there is the toxic male culture that seems to exist throughout the book. Overall, a real life read. What I absolutely loved was how Sital portrayed her Grandmother and Mother, while they were all flawed, their resilient spirit is truly one worth reading about. This might be one of my top Caribbean reads for the year. I absolutely recommend everyone picking this up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebel Women Lit

    Trigger Warning: Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence Secrets We Kept by Krystal Sital is a stunning memoir — unbelievable in parts, touching throughout, and thoroughly impactful. Sital’s writing feels honest and she refreshingly portrays people as the full and complicated humans they are. The women are strong, but accepting of and sometimes complicit in the culture that abuses and diminishes them to roles of servitude. The men are charming, and cruel, and completely invested in the pr Trigger Warning: Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence Secrets We Kept by Krystal Sital is a stunning memoir — unbelievable in parts, touching throughout, and thoroughly impactful. Sital’s writing feels honest and she refreshingly portrays people as the full and complicated humans they are. The women are strong, but accepting of and sometimes complicit in the culture that abuses and diminishes them to roles of servitude. The men are charming, and cruel, and completely invested in the privileges that allow them to treat the women in their lives as their property. Centred on the lives of three generations of women in Trinidad, Sital gives us a bird’s eye view of women’s lives in Trinidad and to some extent the rest of the Caribbean, where the hardships faced by women largely centre on socio-economic and cultural constraints in a fundamentally patriarchal system that prizes men. Quite expectedly, the hardships faced by these women in Trinidad led to migration. Heartbreakingly, the abuse faced, especially by Sital’s grandmother, is still present but takes on different characteristics. Questions around responsibility and loyalty to men who destroyed the lives of their wives and children, who are now burdened to take care of these men and show unreciprocal kindness, are raised. I was fascinated by much of the Hindu traditions that came out in this memoir. I also felt that I got a good sense of Trinidad through Sital’s pointed storytelling. I wish the cover of the book was more imaginative. I don’t think I would have picked up this book off a shelf, which would have been quite a loss. Thank you W. W. Norton Company for providing us with an ARC of Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad in exchange for an honest review. Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad review by Karen Lloyd.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Conley

    It’s fitting that I have finished this book on International Women’s Day. The harrowing stories of these women coming up in the male dominated Trinidadian culture, unfolding through the strength of each to ask about and share their secrets kept me coming back at every free opportunity. Timely in nature and so descriptive you swear you can smell food and the heat of the Caribbean sun. Glad to support female authors and keep their voices and experiences in my library for future generations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    This poignant memoir captivated me, and it was meaningful to read experiences that mirror my own, from the reverence of Pappy in childhood to leaving Trinidad but still calling it home!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    There were so many aspects of this book that made me want to break down and cry or just be totally angry at what was going on. You learn about the cruelty inflicted by a man’s anger and hatred towards his family for no reason. You wonder as to why a woman would stay with a man that showed the slightest bit of love and affection, not anything at all. You learn of another family member’s act of infidelity, and there was no remorse from the man when he was caught, as if it were no big deal. You lea There were so many aspects of this book that made me want to break down and cry or just be totally angry at what was going on. You learn about the cruelty inflicted by a man’s anger and hatred towards his family for no reason. You wonder as to why a woman would stay with a man that showed the slightest bit of love and affection, not anything at all. You learn of another family member’s act of infidelity, and there was no remorse from the man when he was caught, as if it were no big deal. You learn the hardship of escaping from a life that you know to make something of yourself, trying to find a happy ending, and how difficult it is when you’re from the poorer side of the island. You get very vivid scenarios of the island of Trinidad that you and can almost feel yourself there, feeling the sea breeze against your face and smelling the fresh fruits. It was beautifully written, especially the language that was spoken, and grabbed your attention, yearning for more about the secrets that were kept for so many years. It kind of makes you wonder if there are any secrets within your own family history...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    “Pregnant or not, she toiled on the farm with cutlass and sickle, bags draped over her back. His blows were no less brutal when she was with child, perhaps worse, as though rage could drive him to rip the baby bloody from her insides. He left her after he beat her. Blood spilled from every orifice, and as he walked to his car, she prayed he wouldn’t turn back. She knew when he left it was to sink into the flesh of another woman.” This was an incredibly moving account of three generations of women “Pregnant or not, she toiled on the farm with cutlass and sickle, bags draped over her back. His blows were no less brutal when she was with child, perhaps worse, as though rage could drive him to rip the baby bloody from her insides. He left her after he beat her. Blood spilled from every orifice, and as he walked to his car, she prayed he wouldn’t turn back. She knew when he left it was to sink into the flesh of another woman.” This was an incredibly moving account of three generations of women in one family and their lives in Trinidad before they migrated to America. The author tells the story of her mother and grandmother, with direct excerpts from them both in patois, namely of their abuse at the hands of the men in their lives. The accounts shared are candid and no holds barred, the violence they endured is difficult to read but necessary to get a glimpse into what life can be like for many women on the islands.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Really interesting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen A. Lloyd

    Secrets We Kept is a stunning memoir - unbelievable in parts, touching throughout, and thoroughly impactful. Sital's writing feels honest and she refreshingly portrays people as the full and complicated humans they are. The women are strong, but accepting of and sometimes complicit in the culture that abuses and diminishes them to roles of servitude. The men are charming, and cruel, and completely invested in the privileges that allow them to treat the women in their lives as their property.  Cent Secrets We Kept is a stunning memoir - unbelievable in parts, touching throughout, and thoroughly impactful. Sital's writing feels honest and she refreshingly portrays people as the full and complicated humans they are. The women are strong, but accepting of and sometimes complicit in the culture that abuses and diminishes them to roles of servitude. The men are charming, and cruel, and completely invested in the privileges that allow them to treat the women in their lives as their property.  Centred on the lives of three generations of women in Trinidad, Sital gives us a bird's eye view of women's lives in Trinidad and to some extent the rest of the Caribbean, where the hardships faced by women largely centre on socio-economic and cultural constraints in a fundamentally patriarchal system that prizes men.  Quite expectedly, the hardships faced by these women in Trinidad led to migration. Heartbreakingly, the abuse faced, especially by Sital's grandmother,  is still present but takes on different characteristics. Questions around responsibility and loyalty to men who destroyed the lives of their wives and children, who are now burdened to take care of these men and show unreciprocal kindness, are raised.  I was fascinated by much of the Hindu traditions that came out in this memoir. I also felt that I got a good sense of Trinidad through Sital's pointed storytelling. I wish the cover of the book was more imaginative. I don't think I would have picked up this book off a shelf, which would have been quite a loss.

  9. 4 out of 5

    tinaathena

    This book is what I aspire to write like and has given me a new understanding of how I can approach writing non-fiction in a rich and detailed way. I loved it! I picked this up because I was looking to read books from T+T authors and am so grateful that I wound up with this. There was a lot for me to personally relate to here, with some of the author's experiences running parallel to things that happened in my family—the resigned constant labour by women, an unquestioned patriarch, domestic abuse This book is what I aspire to write like and has given me a new understanding of how I can approach writing non-fiction in a rich and detailed way. I loved it! I picked this up because I was looking to read books from T+T authors and am so grateful that I wound up with this. There was a lot for me to personally relate to here, with some of the author's experiences running parallel to things that happened in my family—the resigned constant labour by women, an unquestioned patriarch, domestic abuse and a complex relationship with your "motherland." Parts of this book reminded me of Pachinko, but maybe more devastating (? not sure that's the right word) because it is reality. Like Pachinko, religion looms in the background of the book but ultimately the kitchen hearth is the dais for women—obliged to cook for what are ostensibly their gods but are left alone to meditate over melding flavours and the warmth of a fire...perhaps soothed by this duty, knowing that ultimately, they are feeding their family and are the givers of life. The description of food in this book is just 😍😍😍. This book checks off all my boxes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Beautiful and difficult and heartbreakingly complicated.... the family stories are told with love even when they are of horrific things. Sital manages to capture and illustrate how complicated family can be, how those you love so deeply can sometimes be so flawed, what it’s like knowing that someone you love is a terrible person but still loving them. Parts of this were difficult to get through, in part because the writing is so easy and the story is told so well - it’s far too easy to slip into Beautiful and difficult and heartbreakingly complicated.... the family stories are told with love even when they are of horrific things. Sital manages to capture and illustrate how complicated family can be, how those you love so deeply can sometimes be so flawed, what it’s like knowing that someone you love is a terrible person but still loving them. Parts of this were difficult to get through, in part because the writing is so easy and the story is told so well - it’s far too easy to slip into that world and see the abuse these women endured. Aside from the actual story of her family, the setting and life portrayed in Trinidad was brilliantly relayed. My family is Indo Guyanese, and while I’ve never even been to Guyana the entire time I was reading this book it called to mind the stories of my own family and what life was like for them in Guyana, the voices and words of my aunts and uncles, the culture they grew up with, the type of food they would cook. It made me nostalgic for the life my father lived.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    If I wasn't at work, I would have cried. Instead, when I heard voices outside the staff kitchen I had to look out the window to prevent myself from shedding any tears! It was an amazing read. My friend's parents are from Trinidad. As I read the dialect, I was reminded of them and as Arya spoke I could hear my friend's mother. It makes me want to know their (particularly her mother's) story. Was it anything like Arya & Rebecca's experience? To think, Arya and Rebecca each wanted a "way out;" doing If I wasn't at work, I would have cried. Instead, when I heard voices outside the staff kitchen I had to look out the window to prevent myself from shedding any tears! It was an amazing read. My friend's parents are from Trinidad. As I read the dialect, I was reminded of them and as Arya spoke I could hear my friend's mother. It makes me want to know their (particularly her mother's) story. Was it anything like Arya & Rebecca's experience? To think, Arya and Rebecca each wanted a "way out;" doing it slightly different but the results were virtually the same. I had no sympathy for either of their husbands, and detested the (adult) children on multiple occasions. For instance, chastising Rebecca when all she wanted was peace and FREEDOM from her emotionally, physically, and spiritually abusive husband Shiva. If you read anything from 2018/nonfiction, let it be this!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    Goodreads Giveaway winner. The author revered her grandfather and could not understand her grandmother's reaction when her grandfather becomes comatose after a fall. Then she is told the secrets that should never have been kept of the years of physical abuse inflicted on her grandmother and mother. This book was very hard to read because of the gut-wrenching accounts of the vicious brutality that these women endured at the hands of this cruel violent man.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gail (The Knight Reader)

    This is the kind of book that should mean so much to people from the Caribbean. It tells an all too familiar story that is likely to resonate with even the most far removed West Indian. Beyond the "Caribbean" story, it is a tale of hardship, survival and devotion. If you have no idea what Ms Sital is talking about and cannot relate, take it as a history lesson. This is the story of our women. This is the story of strength.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Krystal Sital

    I'm biased but oh well ;)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Kittel

    I was completely captivated by this book and would rate it 4.5 stars if that was available. Having lived in Jamaica, I really enjoyed the author's extensive use of patois! In addition, it made me so hungry for Indian food, that I ate at an Indian restaurant two nights in a row after I finished reading it. I have yet to visit Trinidad and I didn't know about the historical racism between Africans and East Indians. Or that they grow pomegranates. Needless to say, I was appropriately shocked by the I was completely captivated by this book and would rate it 4.5 stars if that was available. Having lived in Jamaica, I really enjoyed the author's extensive use of patois! In addition, it made me so hungry for Indian food, that I ate at an Indian restaurant two nights in a row after I finished reading it. I have yet to visit Trinidad and I didn't know about the historical racism between Africans and East Indians. Or that they grow pomegranates. Needless to say, I was appropriately shocked by the heart wrenching and cringe-worthy accounts of extreme domestic abuse and my hat is off to the author's Grandma, Rebecca, for surviving, period, in spite of the heavy hand of her father followed by the hands and feet and more of her husband who called her Ruby because he couldn't pronounce her given name. "Like the stone?" she asked when he called her such for the first time. "No, like blood," he replied. And so it was. As to why Ruby put up with her common law husband for the rest of her life, cooking, cleaning, working his fields like a slave, bearing his children, many of whom were stillborn, and bearing his beatings and standing by as witness to the beatings of her children and her special needs sister-in-law? "House, lan, and motohcah, cah is all meh evah wanted." So there you have it. As to why her children made her care for him as an invalid post-stroke in America, that remains a cruel twist of fate to me. It definitely gave this reader pause to think of how many women are abused each and every minute of each and every day, putting up with pain in exchange for house, land, cars, and more or less, as we wrap up Womens History Month. Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to disappoint or amaze me. Having written a book about family conflict, I had to shake my head along with the author at the myths and denials carried from generation to generation and I'm glad she had the chutzpah to finally ask, listen, and then tell the truth. Share your stories. Amen. And I hope she'll give her Grandma, Rebecca, a big hug from me. Namaste.

  16. 5 out of 5

    enyanyo

    This was a captivating read. First, the idyllic descriptions of the island of Trinidad and then the author's gradual unfolding of her mother's, grandmother's and finally her own story. Krystal A. Sital's memoir highlights the power of owning and telling one's story. You could sense all three women's collective sigh of relief as they finally opened up about their experiences.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Booktart

    A very tough read due to the domestic abuse detailed in the book, but also a very compelling memoir (written more like narrative fiction) set in a country I really didn’t know much about. I feel like the book gave me a sense of Trinidad and its complexities.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doris Combs

    Am emotional story of abuse as the brutal truth is unraveled. The voice of the abuser and the children are finally told; and how children view it differently and refuse to help the victim in the end as the abuser is dying. A heart-wrenching read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Beautifully written. Krystal Sital tells the story of her mother, grandmother and herself in dealing with the men in their lives, more often than not harsh and abusive, and the culture of Trinidad the its many ethnic groups.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Secrets We Kept is an amazingly powerful memoir of one Trinidad family told through the brutal experiences of three generations of women. It is an intensely personal story and one which must have been so painful for Sital to write, yet through the attitudes and reactions (or, more honestly, the lack of reaction) of other people close to Rebecca, Arya and Krystal, I soon came to understand that their situation couldn't have been unique within See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Secrets We Kept is an amazingly powerful memoir of one Trinidad family told through the brutal experiences of three generations of women. It is an intensely personal story and one which must have been so painful for Sital to write, yet through the attitudes and reactions (or, more honestly, the lack of reaction) of other people close to Rebecca, Arya and Krystal, I soon came to understand that their situation couldn't have been unique within this community. We never find out the source of Shiva's irrational anger and violence towards his wife and children. As a reader, I was fascinated by the different personas the man could project depending on his audience at the time. Domestic violence is becoming a topic which can be discussed openly, but for all the women still trapped by it, Secrets We Kept is a perfect illustration of why publicly funded women's refuges are such vital places. Rebecca cannot escape Shiva because she has absolutely nowhere else to go. Her authentically rendered speech, when she eventually feels safe enough to begin to talk, is heartbreaking to read. Sital perfectly captures the impossibility of satisfying familial obligations while also preserving oneself. To understand what Rebecca endured is bad enough, but then for me to realise that her initial decision to leave her home for Shiva was aspirational was shocking. She managed to gain material advantages for her children, but at a terrible cost and I was horrified at the adult children's treatment of Rebecca once it became clear that Shiva needed constant nursing care. Did they have no empathy for their mother at all? Sital's inclusion of phonetically written Trini patois for Rebecca and Arya's speech was inspired and I loved how the language transported me directly to their island home. I didn't find it at all difficult to read once I began to actually hear their voices. Away from Shiva's oppression, Trinidad sounds such a beautiful place so the contrast between those two aspects of the story is especially effective. I think that Secrets We Kept is an incredibly important memoir of the lasting effects of domestic violence and how its aftermath lingers to affect more people than just its immediate victims. It's also a moving story of a dysfunctional and fragmented family, only three of whom manage to reconnect in a meaningful way.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angel Eduardo

    I'm truly stunned. A vivid, gripping, and heart-wrenching memoir, powerful in its themes, deft in its language and structure, and decimating in its honesty and intensity. Equal parts enrapturing and gut-punching, Krystal A. Sital weaves a multi-generational story of pain and perseverance that will leave you breathless. Her prose is both poetic and visceral, her imagery both stark and luscious, the story both heartbreaking and inspiring. I will give nothing away here. Suffice it to say that Krysta I'm truly stunned. A vivid, gripping, and heart-wrenching memoir, powerful in its themes, deft in its language and structure, and decimating in its honesty and intensity. Equal parts enrapturing and gut-punching, Krystal A. Sital weaves a multi-generational story of pain and perseverance that will leave you breathless. Her prose is both poetic and visceral, her imagery both stark and luscious, the story both heartbreaking and inspiring. I will give nothing away here. Suffice it to say that Krystal has written what could very well be a memoir of our time. I couldn't think of a better moment in history for this writer to share this book with this world. Full disclosure: I know the author. She's a dear friend, and despite this I am not the least bit worried about anyone suspecting bias. Krystal A. Sital is a phenomenal writer, full stop. The only difference between you and me, dear reader, is that you haven't yet had the chance to learn that for yourself. On February 20th, you shall, and I'll be right here waiting to say I told you so.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I didn't know much about the culture of Trinidad at the onset of this book, but not only did the author beautifully illustrate the culture she also amazingly weaved the stories of her mother and grandmother and how that culture impacted their lives, their families and their decisions. The infidelity, domestic abuse and oppression left me wondering why any woman in Trinidad would choose the institution of marriage, but realizing that if you were poor you didn't have any options. Both Rebecca and I didn't know much about the culture of Trinidad at the onset of this book, but not only did the author beautifully illustrate the culture she also amazingly weaved the stories of her mother and grandmother and how that culture impacted their lives, their families and their decisions. The infidelity, domestic abuse and oppression left me wondering why any woman in Trinidad would choose the institution of marriage, but realizing that if you were poor you didn't have any options. Both Rebecca and Arya used marriage as a means of escape, but soon realized they'd traded one evil for another, especially Rebecca. On many occasions, I wondered why she didn't steal her freedom by any means necessary while her evil husband, Shiva, slept. And then her children, eish! So happy that Rebecca experienced some form of liberation in the end albeit in the winter of her life. The only thing missing were recipes of the amazing dishes the author described.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I received an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Sital shares an immigrant’s legacy, not an immigrant’s story. The strength of the Trinidadian women in the face of generations of culturally embedded abuse is both foreign and remarkable to an American reader. The narrative passages sharing Rebecca and Arya’s memories and the depiction of Trinidadian funeral rituals are by far the most compelling. The descriptive sections, especially at the beginning, feel a bit stiff and heavy. Al I received an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Sital shares an immigrant’s legacy, not an immigrant’s story. The strength of the Trinidadian women in the face of generations of culturally embedded abuse is both foreign and remarkable to an American reader. The narrative passages sharing Rebecca and Arya’s memories and the depiction of Trinidadian funeral rituals are by far the most compelling. The descriptive sections, especially at the beginning, feel a bit stiff and heavy. Also, as the layers of the family stories continue, it becomes difficult at times to keep the different men and women clearly identified - it is too easy to get lost in references to “her mother” or “his brother.” Overall, Secrets We Kept is a tribute to one writer’s heritage that puts faces and, more importantly, a heart onto the cultural history of the women of Trinidad.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    What a beautiful and heartbreaking account. I am still reeling from the extent of violence this family endured. Sital does an incredible job of weaving together the storylines, bouncing between past and (relative) present, and keeping the reader engaged...not because Shiva's violence is sensationalized, but because you need to know that these people made it out OK. With the recent exposure of domestic violence as horrifically commonplace, this is a very timely book. Sital deftly tackles how mudd What a beautiful and heartbreaking account. I am still reeling from the extent of violence this family endured. Sital does an incredible job of weaving together the storylines, bouncing between past and (relative) present, and keeping the reader engaged...not because Shiva's violence is sensationalized, but because you need to know that these people made it out OK. With the recent exposure of domestic violence as horrifically commonplace, this is a very timely book. Sital deftly tackles how muddy the waters get when domestic violence is so pervasive in a society and the complex twists families become when living in fear of an abuser (not to mention the added factor of mores specific to a particular culture--in this case, the Trinidad desi). Let's also talk about the feel of Secrets We Kept. It is very much a "place as character" book. Sital's descriptions put you right there in Trinidad--the sights, smells, tastes, people, culture, everything. It also reminded me how much I love conversation written phonetically in the local patois. It probably took me longer to read because I was so caught up in the language; by the end, I was putting much of the non-conversational script in the dialect. Thank you to WW Norton and Co. and Net Galley for this ARC.

  25. 4 out of 5

    AndHeReadsToo

    When Shiva Singh suddenly collapses in his New Jersey home and is rushed to the hospital, his granddaughter, Krystal, notices during heated debate regarding the pressing medical decisions that must be made on Shiva’s behalf, that her grandmother, Rebecca, seems completely unconcerned whether Shiva lives or dies. Her grandmother’s lack of concern bothers her and leads her to ask her mother, Arya, later that evening “Ma, why gramma wahn grampa dead?” The question unlocks something within Arya as me When Shiva Singh suddenly collapses in his New Jersey home and is rushed to the hospital, his granddaughter, Krystal, notices during heated debate regarding the pressing medical decisions that must be made on Shiva’s behalf, that her grandmother, Rebecca, seems completely unconcerned whether Shiva lives or dies. Her grandmother’s lack of concern bothers her and leads her to ask her mother, Arya, later that evening “Ma, why gramma wahn grampa dead?” The question unlocks something within Arya as memories of her father and her childhood in Trinidad had been tormenting her since she heard the news of her father’s fall. She tells Krystal a story of a brutal beating she witnessed her mother endure at the hands of her father as she, Arya, hid from his wrath beneath the floorboards of the house. This story comes as a complete surprise to Krystal who only knew her grandfather to be kind, patient and generous. Over the weeks and months of Shiva’s convalescence, Krystal, through conversations with her mother and grandmother, learns details of the betrayal and brutality these women endured at the hands of the man for whom they were now the primary caregivers. As Krystal listens to the memories of first her mother and then her grandmother, she sees how their lives mirrored each other’s with each trying to escape their childhood circumstances. Both women sought to escape their violently controlling fathers and their rural environment by marrying men who they believed offered better lives. Though each woman had initial doubts about the man they would eventually marry, the promise of leaving their fathers’ homes was enough to assuage their fears. Krystal learns that though their methods and personalities differed, both her grandfather, Shiva, and her father, Dharmendra, were abusive, controlling and deceitful. Shiva was violent and erratic and when his temper flared, nobody was certain if the victim of his beatings would survive the attack. Dharmendra was emotionally abusive and displayed this early on with an attempted suicide when Arya refused his marriage proposal. Krystal struggles to reconcile this new information with the image she has had of these men she has loved her whole life. Glaringly absent from this book, was the story of the third woman of Trinidad. Krystal Sital gives us the memoirs of her mother and grandmother but only includes herself as an observer. It would have been interesting to read her story and see if she was able to escape the cycle her mother and grandmother found themselves caught in. She does however delve into family secrets and we see a brutally honest depiction of the cruel and oppressive effects of the secrets families keep from each other and from outsiders. Sisters revel in each others’ misery and in-laws provoke their brothers knowing their anger would be enacted upon their wives. Trinidad does not come off well in this story as it seems every man in Trinidad is violent, controlling and dishonest and that this behaviour is almost endorsed by society at large. However, given her family’s experience I understand the feeling expressed by Arya that she would never move back there (here). As one final point of contention, the spelling of the Trinidadian dialect was most difficult to even read far less understand. As a Trinidadian it was frustrating. Overall I enjoyed the story. I think the author explored some facets of Caribbean life that are all too common but not spoken about. I found myself frequently frustrated with the extended family as they can be deliberately cruel to one another and whisper behind one another’s backs as they scheme for position and place within the family. Missing from the story however is a sense of closure as we never see Krystal break the cycle her mother tried to escape or even confront her family about the secrets they hold over one another.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This was a difficult book to read because of the horrific treatment the women, mothers, daughters by their husbands/partners. Women who left homes where they were mistreated and abused, worked as though their lives depended on it... and they did! Trinidad was (is?) a patriarchal society where men thought absolutely nothing of beating their women. This story is one of desperation, grittiness, and poverty. Of escaping one dysfunctional and abusive home only to be enmeshed in the same cycle of abus This was a difficult book to read because of the horrific treatment the women, mothers, daughters by their husbands/partners. Women who left homes where they were mistreated and abused, worked as though their lives depended on it... and they did! Trinidad was (is?) a patriarchal society where men thought absolutely nothing of beating their women. This story is one of desperation, grittiness, and poverty. Of escaping one dysfunctional and abusive home only to be enmeshed in the same cycle of abuse in their. Certainlt worth reading. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of their food and the stories that emerged when generations of women delved not their lives while cooking.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Pottinger

    Interesting read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    Secrets We Kept is a memoir about three generations of women in her family - her grandmother, her mother, and herself - and the impact that domestic violence has had on them all. The book opens with her grandmother coming home to find her grandfather unconscious on the apartment floor. When the whole family is at the hospital and the medical team wants to know what lifesaving measures the grandmother wants them to take for her husband, the author notices the slightest of pauses by her grandmothe Secrets We Kept is a memoir about three generations of women in her family - her grandmother, her mother, and herself - and the impact that domestic violence has had on them all. The book opens with her grandmother coming home to find her grandfather unconscious on the apartment floor. When the whole family is at the hospital and the medical team wants to know what lifesaving measures the grandmother wants them to take for her husband, the author notices the slightest of pauses by her grandmother before she goes along with the pressure from her children and grandchildren to take all available measures. This opens up the door to a dialogue with her mother about that pause and long kept family secrets are shared. Sital is a very strong writer and I loved the way she moved the story through the generations and you saw how the problems from one generation influenced the decisions and problems of the next. On top of an exquisitely told and heartfelt memoir about her family, Sital also demonstrates a lot of talent with both her nature writing about Trinidad as well as her writing about food. I hope to see more from this author in the future.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    “We are of Trinidad...It like a drop ah oil, some say as doh somebody forget to wipe it awhey” This book was a read for the Book of Cinz book club. The Secrets We Kept is the story of three Trinidadian women and the great abuse, lack or resources and danger they endured during their lives both in Trinidad and after migration to the United States. The stories told by these women are heart wrenching and shocking, however the voices that tell them come across as flat. Emotionless. The end of the nov “We are of Trinidad...It like a drop ah oil, some say as doh somebody forget to wipe it awhey” This book was a read for the Book of Cinz book club. The Secrets We Kept is the story of three Trinidadian women and the great abuse, lack or resources and danger they endured during their lives both in Trinidad and after migration to the United States. The stories told by these women are heart wrenching and shocking, however the voices that tell them come across as flat. Emotionless. The end of the novel was rushed and a lot of it seemed irrelevant to the story. This might have been an effort for the author to purge her feelings in a hurry, but didn’t add to what she was saying.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Secrets We Kept tells the stories of women who would not typically have their stories told – women whose silence is, oftentimes, forced upon them for the duration of their lives, restricting them to lives of subordination and abuse. Sital details the memories of this abuse through the perspective of her mother and grandmother, in addition to her own recollections. Most of the abuse is at the hands of Sital’s grandfather, who has been hospitalized at the start of this book and is unlikely to reco Secrets We Kept tells the stories of women who would not typically have their stories told – women whose silence is, oftentimes, forced upon them for the duration of their lives, restricting them to lives of subordination and abuse. Sital details the memories of this abuse through the perspective of her mother and grandmother, in addition to her own recollections. Most of the abuse is at the hands of Sital’s grandfather, who has been hospitalized at the start of this book and is unlikely to recover from his condition. Sital’s mother and grandmother speak without hesitation of their experiences. The abuse – the nature and longevity of it – that is detailed by these two women is abhorrent, to say the least. Sital then must struggle to reconcile her beloved grandfather – who only showed her generosity and kindness – with the abuser that terrorized his family. The victims of this abuse include all of his children, his wife, and his mentally impaired sister. The one most familiar with his abuse was his wife – a woman he seemed to choose for this role specifically because of how vulnerable she was. Sital’s grandmother was fighting to escape the abuse at her home growing up and, unfortunately, she escaped one abusive household for another. A poor woman without an education, she was afforded no other option except marriage to a man who could not have respected her less. Sital’s grandmother is a woman who knew suffering all too well – it took her 73 years to truly and totally escape the control of her abusers. First her father, next her husband, and finally her children – who forced their mother to sign for procedures to attempt to save the man who terrorized her and then to care for her abuser, their ailing father, out of some twisted attempt at filial duty (last time I checked, “filial duty” should include both parents and should not consist of causing undue hardship on one’s mother). This was not an easy read (yet I read it in 2 days’ time since I have nothing to do at work at the moment), but an important one. This book details not only the abuse these women suffered but charts out the systems in place that prevent the poor from moving up in life - the systems that relegate women to the roles embodied by Sital's mother and grandmother. The language with which this story is told is beautiful - Sital's writing is lyrical and lovely - and the stories she tells are powerful and complex. I would recommend this book - but I would also advise caution to all those who are sensitive to violence and domestic abuse, as this is a feature of much of this book, and the violence that is detailed is pretty extreme.

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