Title: Acts of Contrition
Author: Jennifer Hanford
Mary Morrissey is living the life of her dreams. She has a loving husband of ten years, Tom, two daughters, and twin boys. Her parents are just down the road. Her three sisters are nearby. Perfect—some might even say she is living the American Dream.
But beneath the shiny veneer, Mary hasn’t taken a calm breath in years. She lives in a constant state of panic, afraid that the secret she’s kept hidden for so long will be revealed, that it will shatter the life she’s worked so hard to build.
When Mary’s handsome and addictively charismatic ex-boyfriend Landon James reappears during his high profile Senate campaign, she feels the truth bubbling to the surface and knows she’s powerless to stop it. Mary has spent years trying to forget him, and now he’s on every TV she sees.
A conditional Catholic, Mary bargains with God, negotiating deals that will keep her happy life undisturbed for another day. She prays for strength and confesses her sins—anything that might let her sleep at night under the weight of the guilt she carries from lying to her husband and family for the entirety of her marriage.
When Tom learns what Mary’s been hiding, what once seemed unfathomable—a deep, heartbreaking divide between them—is now their new normal. Can they find a way to rebuild their life together? Is forgiveness possible?
Acts of Contrition is a richly drawn story of faith, family loyalty, and forgiveness, even in the face of moral ambiguity, guilt, and shattered trust.
Family secrets…everyone’s got them. The secrets we keep can either tear our families apart or bind us together. For Mary Morrissey the coin has been tossed and she’s been waiting for over a decade to see which side it will land on.
“I’ve made my family a happy home, but it was a house built with stolen bricks.”
There was no need for me to judge Mary, she did a thorough job of that herself. She’s weighed down with the guilt of her deception but, despite her morally corrupt choices, I empathized with her. The reason I could identify with Mary was entirely due to Hanford’s brilliant skill at creating a distinctive narrative for her. Mary’s voice is honest and without guile, as if the entire novel was a diary of sorts.
“The truth wasn’t pinning me down, I was pinning it down, pushing is mercilessly against the wall with my hand over its mouth.”
What made this story interesting to me was the all access pass into the shifting dynamics and subtle nuances of Mary’s marriage. Hanford manages to show how completely a single bad decision can slowly eat away at a relationship in the form of the lies and omissions continuously needed to bury the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed Acts of Contrition and highly recommend it! Check it out via Amazon here.
Have you ever witnessed the funk hit the fan over a family secret? Dish in the comments below! I’d love to hear all about it.