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Mimishu1995's avatar

Can you recommend me a novel like this? (details inside)

Asked by Mimishu1995 (6943 points ) September 17th, 2013

It can be of any genre (but mystery should be great), with any plot, but the basic plot should be like this: the protagonist once did (or thinks he/she did) something horrible in the past that had a tragic outcome, but no one seems to know. At the present time a certain problem arises, forcing him/her to face that past again. The story should then focus strongly on the protagonist’s inner thought and struggle to choose between keeping the past a secret and revealing it to everyone (given that the knowledge of that past can lead to a solution to the problem at the present time). I have read some stories in which one of the character encounters such situation, but mostly the protagonist who tries to uncover the truth is an outsider (the one who wasn’t involved in the past event at all). I need a story featuring the protagonist as the one who is fully involved in both the past and present events. I need to learn how to describe a character’s thought and feeling in such a situation. Can anyone recommend me a book like that?

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6 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

The Painted Veil. W Somerset Maugham

janbb's avatar

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.

Short story “The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve read many books in which a past secret figured as a key element; in fact, a character with a secret is almost a requisite for a certain type of book. Some of them were probably of the Stephen King and Dean Koontz variety. Wish I could think of specifics for you now.

The thing is, the revelation of the past secret is most likely to be part of the suspense of the book and certainly tied up with the climax of the plot. So you’d have to have a focal character with knowledge of the past that is withheld from the reader. That can be very tricky (unless you use the device of buried memory that is somehow later recovered), especially if you want the reader to “know” the main character and be involved in his or her feelings. If the character is aware of something major but concealing it—and the reader is kept in the dark—the character is apt to seem opaque and elusive, and the reader won’t be able to identify with him or her.

I do suddenly remember one story that might fit your description—The Other, by Thomas Tryon. I read it many years ago, so I can’t give a 100% confidence rating to my memory.

That book (and another by the same author: Harvest Home ) is decidedly creepy and might have a little more suspense and secrecy than you actually want to deal with.

downtide's avatar

The only one that I can think of thats similar to this is The Survivor byJames Herbert. He is primarily a horror writer but this particular story is more a psychological thriller. The protagonist is an airline pilot who is the only survivor of the crash of his plane. Believing himself responsible for the accident he sets out to discover the truth about what happened.

fightfightfight's avatar

I’ve got one for you! It’s called “Last Night I Sang to the Monster” by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It’s sort of a sad book, well, I think it can be both sad and happy at times, also funny. But most importantly, I think it meets your criteria because it has the protagonist starring in both his past and present tense, and I think the author did a good job with the protagonist’s state of mind and emotions in each tense, and it paints a very clear picture for the reader, you should check it out. It’s one of my favorite books too :)

anartist's avatar

Mystic River: Dennis Lehane: [below from wikipedia] was a good read!
The novel revolves around three boys who grow up as friends in Boston — Dave Boyle, Sean Devine, and Jimmy Marcus. When the story opens, we see Dave abducted by child molesters while he, Sean, and Jimmy are horsing around on a neighborhood street. Dave escapes and returns home days later, emotionally shattered by his experience. The book then moves forward 25 years: Sean has become a homicide detective, Jimmy is an ex-convict who currently owns a convenience store, and Dave is a shell of a man. Jimmy’s daughter disappears and is found brutally murdered in a city park, and that same night, Dave comes home to his wife, covered in blood. Sean is assigned to investigate the murder, and the three childhood friends are caught up in each other’s lives again.

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