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Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

southern-girlsIn Secrets of Southern Girls, the powerful, affecting debut from Haley Harrigan, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed…

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back.

Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

In fact, she may not be responsible at all.


Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan is the kind of book that takes time to fully grab your attention but once it does, you end up totally engrossed to the last page. The story starts out a bit slow with Julie at New York. I struggled a little with the beginning. I couldn’t figure out where the story was heading to and I wasn’t interested in what was going on at that point.  However, the pace quickly changed once August came into the story. He shows up in Julie’s life trying to get her to go back with him to Lawrence Mill, Mississippi and try to find Reba’s diary.

Once the two arrive at Lawrence Mill, I was totally hooked. The narration alternates between Julie and August. In addition, there are diary entries by Reba. I am usually fascinated by narrations about the past and so naturally, I loved the chapters narrated by Reba. These are the chapters that help us learn about the past and especially about the events leading up to the death of Reba. There are other narrators throughout the story. One of them is Toby. I enjoyed learning more about him through the diary than even his own narrations. Toby was one of the realest characters in the book. He is flawed and easy to dislike but there was something endearing about him.

The story is about secrets and lies. The diary holds the most devastating revelations. I found myself wondering about how well we really know the people in our lives. Could they be having secrets/other lives that we totally don’t know about? Do we really know anybody at all and do they know us? Anyway, I digress. All the people in Reba’s life thought that they knew her. However, they all knew just versions of her but the diary bares shocking revelations that leaves everyone torn apart.

Lawrence Mill, Mississippi was an interesting setting. Reba’s diary reveals events that took place in 1997. I was surprised by the open racism. African Americans in the town are not easily accepted and interracial relationships are sort of a taboo. To date someone from a different race, you had to sneak around to avoid condemnation. The small town holds many secrets and I was intrigued by the character’s attempt to unravel the secrets from the past.

I ended up reading Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan in just two sittings. The suspense was thick especially after the first chapters and the introduction of the diary. I was curious about the past. I wanted to know how Reba died. Was Julie the killer? Who else was involved? I was curious about Reba herself. She had so many secrets such that each diary entry was a revelation. Harrigan’s writing is beautiful and this added to the appeal of the book. In some aspects it was poetic. She managed to get me fully immersed in the story. In the end, despite the slow start, I enjoyed this book.

About the Author

Haley Harrigan graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in creative writing and public relations. She lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband. Secrets of Southern Girls is her debut.  Visit her website at www.haleyharrigan.com or on Twitter @HCHarrigan.

Giveaway: Please click this link to a Rafflecopter giveaway to win your very own copy of the amazing Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan.


21 comments on “Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

  1. anovelglimpse
    June 9, 2017

    I hadn’t heard of this book, but now I want to read it! I love both books set in the South and ones that include secrets and lies. This sounds like a book I might have to pick for book group when it’s my turn! Great review!

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      Thank you.I also like books set in the South though I haven’t read many of them.Secrets and lies always make books more twisty.I like them too and they were in plenty especially once the diary was introduced in the story.

      • anovelglimpse
        June 10, 2017

        Have you read any of Karen White’s? I love her books! They have great Southern settings and mysteries.

        • Diana
          June 12, 2017

          I haven’t read anything by her. Thanks for the recommendation. Heading over to goodreads to discover her books and hopefully add some to my TBR.

  2. This book is the proof it is sometimes worth it to stick with a book that doesn’t have you hooked from the start 🙂 It sounds very good once things are set in motion! Great review!

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      I was surprised Donna.I had low expectations and goodreads reviews were all mixed up with some complaints about the pace.However,once things started moving,I couldn’t put the book down.I kept looking forward to reading it until I was done.I agree with you.Sometimes patience pays 🙂

  3. missdarcy87
    June 9, 2017

    This looks like such an interesting book! Great review!

  4. Annie
    June 9, 2017

    I feel that I don’t have much patience now, for example I started a book and it’s 500 pages and the beginning hasn’t grabbed me so unless it picks up soon, I’m going to DNF 😦

    I’m glad you ended up enjoying this so much!!

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      Thanks Annie and I liked it in the end.I am terrible with such books especially if they are not ARCs.Like the book that I was telling you about for bookclub.If it were an ARC,I would have taken a different approach.However,I just could get through it.This one ended up being a good read so I am glad that I kept going.

  5. Renee (Itsbooktalk)
    June 9, 2017

    Glad you ended up enjoying this one Diana. I have to agree with Annie…my patience for not being drawn in immediately is pretty low these days. I’m sure I’m missing some good reads but I feel like I have so many review copies to get to that I end up moving on.

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      I totally get what you mean Renee.I wouldn’t put up with such books if they weren’t ARCs.However,this was an ARC and I had been asked to do a spotlight tour and giveaway so I decided to try and finish it even if the start was a struggle.Luckily,things changed a few chapters in and now,I’m glad I kept going because it ended up being an enjoyable read:-)

  6. Laila@BigReadingLife
    June 10, 2017

    I’m glad you found a book that hooked you so thoroughly! Two sittings! That’s rare for me. But a very good sign that this was a great book!

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      Thanks Laila.It was a good book and hence easy to get through once I was hooked.Although I also had to get my review done by Friday because of the giveaway.It all worked out though.

  7. lbarasa
    June 10, 2017

    This book sounds interesting. I loved reading through the review.

    • Diana
      June 10, 2017

      It was interesting.Thanks dear 🙂

  8. Grab the Lapels
    June 11, 2017

    I don’t know…I mean, I just had this conversation with another blogger (or maybe it was you, Diana?? I forget where I leave my thoughts sometimes!). How big of a secret could the people we surround ourselves possibly keep? Why would they keep a secret? Would the secret be something that makes them feel ashamed, or would it utterly alter the course of their lives? Your review was wonderful! Definitely! I just grow weary of every book being full of big deep dark secrets these days.

    • Diana
      June 12, 2017

      I think people keep secrets for various reasons. Like we may not want people to know about our pasts because perhaps its not something we are proud of. We may not want our parents to know everything about us. I think most, if not all people do have secrets(not necessarily, huge, dark ones) so it is possible for different people to know different versions of us.

      As for the secrets, that is a key theme in thrillers. The deception and secrets is where the twists lie. Perhaps its not that the books have increased but maybe its just that more people are reading the genre or rather, more people around us are into thrillers hence it makes it seem like everyone is reading similar books …about secrets and lies:-)

  9. faithrivens
    June 13, 2017

    Okay, I’m definitely intrigued by this one now! I love discovering new books on your blog that I would never have heard of otherwise 😀

    • Diana
      June 14, 2017

      haha glad to hear that though I hope that your TBR is not suffering as a result 🙂 Thanks Faith.

  10. Pingback: June Wrap-up (July TBR) | A Haven for Book Lovers

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