The Illusion of Secondhand Smoke

Fiction - General
262 Pages
Reviewed on 02/13/2013
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Author Biography

Janice M. Van Dyck is an award-winning novelist and freelance writer.
Her current release, The Illusion of Secondhand Smoke, is about teenagers growing awry in the 1970's. Set in Levittown, Pennsylvania, the author describes the plot as a

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ty Mall for Readers' Favorite

"The Illusion of Secondhand Smoke" by Janice M. Van Dyck is about Maria DeLuca, a successful motivational speaker, whose personal life is anything but happy. She is into drugs and is having an affair with a married man. She is not without her reasons for giving up on Mike, her abusive husband, even before he got cancer. Years before, her brother Tee was murdered by someone in town over a rumor. Everybody thinks that their reason why the murder occurred is the right one, but Mike, on his deathbed, gets his neighborhood buddies and family together. The missing pieces he fills in about Tee’s death shock everyone more than the secrets they think they have successfully hidden from everyone. And all those dark secrets tumble into the light of day.

I was surprised by how insightful the main character Maria is. A lot of writers don’t choose a character’s profession well, but this author did, and made great use of it. I really connected to these characters in their struggles, because of how well this author described events from each character’s perspective, with no explaining. I thought Jeremy would have been bitter. I enjoyed watching the pieces of the plot fall into place. And even after I started figuring things out, this book kept me guessing. The last few chapters were definitely unexpected. I was also surprised by the discussion questions and the notes at the end. This is a great book.

Dr. Oliva Dsouza

Mike Costello is dying and has some secrets that he wants to share. He expresses his wish to see all his friends from the days gone by. All their lives had taken a turn the day Tee DeLuca was killed. He was rumored to be gay and in the seventies, being gay was not widely accepted. Mike's testimony got the killer sent to prison. But, did Mike tell the truth? Did Jeremy really kill Tee? Does Maria, Tee's sister, and Mike's ex-wife know the truth about Mike? Is he finally going to tell the real story and get ready to face his maker? Read on for a look into the heart of an evil man, a man who feels no remorse or regret for his actions and who would like to have the power to destroy what good others have in their lives too. Will he succeed? Will Maria be able to follow her own motivational theories and sayings to build a better, happier life for herself?

Can we all rise above the mistakes of the past and change? An important theme this book explores is of the past having a hold on our future. Levittown has been portrayed beautifully by the author. The guilt each character carries has been nicely woven into the plot which gives it a realistic touch. It makes one wonder, whether life is really about the choices we make and the guilt associated with the choices in case they resulted in some negative outcome. All the characters are well-thought-out and this book really makes you think hard about the importance of making correct choices in life.

Trisha Dawn Daffon

"The Illusion of Secondhand Smoke" starts in a hotel room, particularly in a bathroom where Maria DeLuca was. She is smoking a joint while her lover is asleep in the bed not far from where she was. She then gets a call from an unlikely person, someone she has not seen nor talked to in a long time: her high school best friend and sister-in-law Ellen Stanwick. The latter has made a request, one which Maria is not very keen about. Even so, she goes home to Levittown where her dying husband Mike Costello is. She also sets out to gather their old friends as Mike has requested. Somehow, this has triggered memories of an unfortunate incident - the murder of Maria's brother, Tee - which has held her and everyone else back. Finally, when the day of their little bedside reunion comes, a trip down the memory lane would set the gears running again, specifically about the mystery behind Tee DeLuca's death.

I love everything about this book. The words are carefully woven to make an intricate pattern which bounds everything in the story. I love how real the characters are. I can picture them as just about anyone really living and breathing like me. Anybody can relate to them even if they are fictitious because these characters are very human. Also, the setting and the events have real feel to them. All in all, I like how dark and intriguing the story is. It kept me on my toes. Although there was a pull in my gut which made me pretty sure about what would happen and who was responsible for it, I still read on because the further I read, the more the book influenced me to think that I might be wrong. Even if in the end I found out how things have really turned out, I felt satisfied. Really, it is intricate and worth every moment you spend on it.

Alice DiNizo

It's the last few years of the past decade and Maria DeLuca has created herself a brilliant and well-paying career with her book, "Ten Steps Closer to You". She goes on speaking engagements where she tells female audience members about obtaining happiness in their lives. But Maria, married but long separated from hometown friend Mike Costello, is unhappy. Her current lover, Ethan, tells her that happiness is an illusion. Then Maria gets a telephone call from her longtime friend, Ellie Stanwick, telling her that her estranged husband Mike is dying of cancer. Mike wants to gather Maria and his friends of long ago at his bedside in their hometown of Levittown, a middle class suburb outside
Philadelphia. Maria's brother Tee was murdered when all the friends were teenagers and Jeremy Stanwick, Ellie's brother-in-law, has served twenty years in prison for that murder. Maria thinks of quotations such as "Life has a way of giving us the same challenges over and over until we solve them" that she uses in her speeches but is she ready for what Mike has to tell this gathering of his friends?

"The Illusion of Second Hand Smoke" by Janice VanDyck is a well-written drama that is filled with believable and engrossing suspense throughout its pages. The characters are engaging and multi-faceted. The plot proceeds with "cliff-hanger" twists and turns to the story's last pages and readers will adore every word in "The Illusion of Second Hand Smoke".

Maria Beltran

It is 1977 and a group of carefree teenagers in Levittown indulged in sex, drugs and rock and roll. When Tee de Luca was murdered, supposedly because he was gay, her sister Maria was devastated. In her grief, she married her brother's best friend Mike Costelo, who was a varsity football player. A local boy was convicted for the murder and Mike ended up in prison too. At the age of forty, Maria becomes a motivational speaker but is still addicted to pot. Ironically, she has never gotten over her brother's death and the role that she played in the unfortunate incident. When her abusive and estranged husband is in his death bed, the scars of their past lives are opened when he summons her and some high school friends to his bedside. What Maria and her teenage friends will uncover will bring them back to their traumatic past.

"The Illusion of Secondhand Smoke" is the story of Maria de Luca and how her past caught up with her. In this novel Janice Van Dyck explores the pain of facing up to one's past mistakes. A group of teenagers meet twenty one years later in their hometown, the scene of the dark truth behind Tee de Luca's death. All of them have gone on with their lives and carried the guilt of the murder that shocked the town years ago. The reunion is filled with tension and this is what makes the novel interesting. The feelings and emotions of the characters are palpable and this is because Van Dyck is a master story teller. This is also a story of guilt and scarred friendship. Above all, this narrative is the story of Maria and Mike whose past mistakes in life and love will continue to haunt them. After Mike's death, will Maria finally be able to put her past behind her?