Book Review Jackie K Cooper
THE MELODY OF SECRETS by Jeffrey Stepakoff
Jeffrey Stepakoff is the author of three novels; FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA, THE ORCHARD and his latest THE MELODY OF SECRETS. The first two books seemed to be screenplays for movies masquerading as books. Stepakoff's latest is a full-fledged novel that could make a good movie. In this new book the characters are appealing and the plot is intriguing and it all adds up to an enjoyable reading experience.
Maria is the main character in the book. She is a German born woman who suffered greatly during World War 2. Her world tumbled down around her and it was only after she met an American pilot whose plane had been downed that she found the strength to want to live again. This pilot's name was James Cooper and their encounter has shaped her life since that 1945 meeting.
The book takes place in 1945 and also in 1957. This flash forward or flash back concept works as it increases the dramatic effect of the story. It does this as it blends these times together seamlessly to tell the love story of Maria and Cooper as well as the involvement of German rocket scientist Hans. He is the one who marries Maria as the war is ending.
Hans and Maria come to live in Huntsville, Alabama where his genius is put to good use by the United States government. He works on rockets for the space program while Maria busies herself with the local symphony. Maria is a talented violinist and her music is a huge part of her life.
Now after a twelve year separation Maria and Cooper are destined to meet again. He walks into her life when he is reassigned to Huntsville as part of his military career as a pilot. There are still feelings between the two but Maria is married and has an eleven year old son.
Stepakoff skillfully builds all elements of his book and stresses not only the romantic aspects of the story but also the political and social elements of the day. Hans was a member of the German Army but our government appears willing to forgive and forget because of his scientific skills. Then there is the treatment of blacks in Alabama. Maria has lived in a country where a group of people were oppressed while people stood by and did nothing. She doesn't want to relive that experience in Alabama.
Stepakoff has written a very romantic novel that should resonate with his strong fan base, but he has also added more depth to the situation in which his estranged lovers find themselves. The inclusion of political and emotional issues strengthens the story and keeps the readers interested all the way to the end. Unfortunately that ending is forced and too compact. Just a few more pages of resolution would have meant so much.
THE MEMORY OF SECRETS is published by St. Martin's Press. It contains 272 pages and sells for $24.99.
Jackie K Cooper