A woman’s journey to define her life when disturbing family secrets are revealed
Everything has been hidden from Roxanne G.—her birth name, her sister, her family history—until her “boyfriend” tries to ingratiate himself by flying in her estranged mother from Tel Aviv. That visit is the start of a tumultuous journey, in which she first learns about a profoundly disabled sister who lives in a residential community in the Galilee, and later begins to unearth disturbing long-held family secrets. The process of facing this history and acknowledging the ways she’s been shaped by it will enable Roxanne to forge the kinds of meaningful connections that had for so long been elusive. In this way, The Face Tells the Secret is the story about a woman who finds love and learns how to open herself to its pleasures. The Face Tells the Secret is also a story that explores disability from many angles and raises questions about our responsibility to care for our kin. How far should Roxanne go to care for the wounded people in her life—her mother, her sister, the man who professes undying love? What should she take on? When is it necessary to turn away from someone’s suffering?
Advance Praise for The Face Tells the Secret
“An exquisite stunner set against the backdrop of Tel Aviv and Pittsburgh, where one woman discovers the profoundly unsettling secrets hidden from her—including a disabled sister she never realized she had, living in a residential community in Galilee. Gorgeously written, and deeply moving, this is a book about the ways we are loved—and more importantly—the ways we let ourselves love.”
– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World
“It is not often that a family drama is also a page-turner but Jane Bernstein has written just that. The Face Tells the Secret is a compelling novel of secrets and surprises. Told in the convincing voice of its narrator, Roxanne Garlick, it is a story that makes us ask if we can really trust anyone. At the same time it makes us understand that trusting someone is the only way to be human. This is a book filled with mysteries that unfold slowly as Roxanne comes to know who she is and who her family really is, and it is clear from this literary thriller love is the deepest mystery of all. I have long been a fan of Jane Bernstein’s work but I feel that in this novel she has brought together her considerable skills as a writer of compassion and a consummate storyteller and has told her finest story of all.”
– Mary Morris, author of Gateway to the Moon
“[Jane Bernstein] is a brilliant and lyrical writer and storyteller. Her new novel, The Face Tells the Secret, is a sublime pleasure that will remind readers of Elizabeth Strout’s excellent books.”
– Rege Behe, Pittsburgh City Paper
“In Jane Bernstein’s thoughtful, character-driven novel The Face Tells the Secret, a woman struggles with new knowledge about her unhappy childhood. Roxanne was never close to her mother, Leona, who prided herself on not being maternal and who is now going senile. She is reluctant about caring for Leona, but then she learns something unexpected: she has a disabled sister whom her parents gave up decades ago. As she grapples with this news and what it reveals about her parents, Roxanne learns to bond with the family she never knew and grow past her parents’ mistakes. In the sometimes stream-of-consciousness narrative, Roxanne’s complex feelings about her mother and her family are crystal clear. Raw and soul-baring, she expresses a desire to help those around her. She feels selfish for having needs of her own, and attributes this unhealthy attitude to neglectful Leona, whom she both loves and hates. Roxanne’s struggles are enhanced by her setting. Much of the story takes place in Tel Aviv, a locale that is filtered through Roxanne’s divided state of mind. Captured as a mixture of beauty and tragedy, it produces both positive and negative associations. Characters come alive through anecdotes large and small. Leona, in particular, pervades the story. Each of her acts of callousness gets under Roxanne’s skin, and her former sharpness becomes a tragic counterpoint to her decline and ultimate fate. In the end, despite her lingering regrets, Roxanne is able to come to terms with the past and live the life that’s best for her and her loved ones.
The Face Tells the Secret is a poignant novel about moving ahead when the past won’t stop bleeding into the present.”
– Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews (September / October 2019)