Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conspiracy of Silence by Gledé Browne Kabongo

Today I am featurig an important book by author  Gledé Browne Kabongo entitled Conspiracy of SilenceThis is a mainstream novel and a women's fiction novel.  It deals with the journey of Nina Kasai as she struggles to overcome a past of childhood sexual abuse.  I know this is a difficult topic for some, but I hope you read through the entire blog here and give the author a chance to capture your heart with Nina's story.


She has the perfect life—and a secret worth killing for.

Nina Kasai is a gorgeous, Ivy League educated executive who would do anything to keep her past a secret, even from her husband. Seventeen years ago, she ran for her life and the truth has been locked away in the pages of her hidden diary, and in the mind of a disturbed woman who will never tell—ever.

When Nina lands the cover of a prestigious business magazine however, she can no longer hide from the powerful enemy she escaped. Phillip Copeland wants to be the next Governor of Massachusetts and he’s not above using his power and influence to silence Nina. He warns her to keep quiet about what happened all those years ago—or else.

As the stakes are raised, both politically and personally, Nina realizes the only way to win this game is to tell the truth. But who will believe her since her diary has been destroyed, and the only other witness isn’t talking?

Nina’s one chance at reclaiming her life hinges on a dramatic courtroom battle where nothing is as it seems. And when the verdict is read, four lives will be forever altered.


Marc paced back and forth on the living room floor, his face laced with anger. It didn’t take long for Nina to discover the source of his wrath. He held up a photograph of Nina and Sonny Alvarez.

“Are you having an affair?” he asked, his jaw twitching.

Nina took two steps backwards, as if the damning photograph would cause her physical harm if she got close. She knew who had sent it and she berated herself for underestimating how low he could sink. By her way of thinking, Phillip figured if her marriage fell apart, she would come running to him and he could get her to do whatever he wanted. It’s the way he manipulated people: get them in a vulnerable state and then swoop in for the kill or make some grand sweeping gesture that would get you all happy, and before you realized what was happening, it was too late.

“That’s a strange question, Marc. When have I ever given you reason to think I was being unfaithful?”

“Never. Until now.”

“Babe, you’re getting worked up over nothing,” Nina said calmly. “Sonny and I are old friends from Stanford. I met him for lunch to discuss business.”

“On a Saturday? You said you were spending the weekend with Charlene. Look at the date on the bottom.” He shoved the photo into her hands.

“It was a quick, unplanned trip. Sonny works for a research company and Jack came to me with the idea of hiring his firm. I told Jack I would take care of it because of my connection to Sonny. I wanted to get it out of the way—one less thing on my plate during the work week.”

“Why haven’t I heard about this Sonny until now? And if there’s nothing going on, why lie to me about going to Charlene’s?”

“I already explained that, Marc. I told Jack I would take care of it because I knew Sonny personally.”

“So your boss called you on a Saturday, mentioned this research firm and you just decided to hop on a plane to Baltimore, just like that?”

Nina wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt and took deep calming breaths.

“Marc, I swear I’m not having an affair with Sonny or anyone else.”

“Then can you please explain this? It came with the photographs.” He pulled out a white sheet of paper from his back pocket and handed it to her.

Your wife is a liar. You deserve the truth.


The author does a good job in the beginning of the story making the reader wonder what is the secret that is so important for Nina to keep even from her husband?  Because of the author's choice to write this novel as somewhat of a suspense/mystery novel, instead of straight women's fiction, I had a hard time with the first 60 pages or so. It was around that time that the secret was obvious to me though it is not revealed until much later.

On the one hand, the topic is deeply emotional and just the thought of it tugs at my heart. However, the character of Nina--though emotionally scared--was not very emotional. In fact, she was the opposite--controlled to the point where she could not afford anything to go wrong with the careful persona she had constructed not only for herself but for everyone around her. This duality of her personality had me sometimes wanting to throw my e-reader against the wall out of frustration. I wanted her to tell somebody, anybody, the truth. But she steadfastly refused until her carefully constructed world was falling apart. At the same time I was frustrated, I was simultaneously clutching the book to my heart and rooting for Nina to get it together in time. What more can an author ask but for that type of conflicted emotional reaction from a reader?

The author also does a very good job of portraying the antagonist in a realistic way.  Having personally worked with victims of child abuse and heard the rationalizations from their abusers, I believe she hit the nail on the head with this one. Though the extent the antagonist goes to cover up what happened is beyond anything I've personally experienced, I believe it enhances the story to have his point-of-view and it does increase the tension and suspense.

I definitely applaud the author for taking on this difficult topic and presenting it in an accessible way where the reader can get a sense of why victims remain silent for so long--sometimes even forever.  It is something that happens too often and the devastation it wreaks often lasts a lifetime. The author did a good job of bringing that out, and of showing how easy it is for people all around the victim to turn away from the truth--refuse to see it--because it is simply too hard to comprehend or believe. For that reason, I had to stick with Nina until the very end to make sure she won both physical and psychological freedom for herself and her family.

Two authorial style choices in the construction of the narrative didn't work for me, but other readers may find them very illuminating. One was the scene with the therapist. It seemed to me there was too much narrative and summarization of the process, as opposed to experiencing the difficult emotional engagement that Nina must have had to undertake. I felt that section went by too quickly and too easily, used as a kind of info dump of why victims feel the way they do. The second part that didn't work as well for me was the court trial, which in many ways is the denoument. Although the trial depiction was true to life, and certainly a necessary part of the story, I felt it went on too long. There were sections where I felt it could have been summarized and others where I felt more emotions could have been displayed. Again, I think this is an authorial choice and may have also been a way to represent exactly how Nina felt too--the exhaustion of enduring everything once more in so public a forum.

I would recommend this book because it depicts the duplicitous life abuse victims learn to lead in order to protect themselves, and the difficult path of finding a way to be free of one's past enough to move on in life and to find happiness. 

Buy the book:  Barnes & Noble | Amazon | iUniverse 


Gledé Browne Kabongo began writing at age 14 when she covered soccer matches for her hometown newspaper.  She has also written for the Patriot Ledger and Metrowest Daily News, two Massachusetts based newspapers. She earned a master’s degree in communications from Clark University, and once had dreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. These days her dreams have shifted to winning the Pulitzer for fiction, and a Best Screenplay Academy Award. For the past decade, Gledé has worked in senior marketing roles for organizations in the Information Technology, publishing and non-profit sectors. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Contact Gledé:  * Website * Twitter *

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

Gledé will be awarding an Italian leather journal (US/Canada Only) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Remember, the more tour stops you visit and comment, the more chances to be entered into the drawing.

Tour Stops

November 19: The Bunny's Review
November 20:  Maggie's Meanderings (You are Here!)
November 21:  Kaisy Daisy's Corner
November 22:  Reviewing Shelf
November 23:  Welcome to My World of Dreams


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Paty Jager said...

I find it interesting that it is labeled Women's Fiction if it has mystery/suspense as one of the key labels.

These kinds of stories are hard to write and even harder to promote.

Good luck.

Evelyn Bohn said...

I've seen this somewhere else and thought it was a suspense thriller story by the title. I'm glad to read this review and know what it's really about. I like that authors like Ms. Kabongo and Ms. Jaimeson are willing to take on tough topics. Thanks for the review.

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Paty and Evie, Thanks for stopping by. I have to say I was surprised by the topic too when I read the story. I thought it was probably romantic suspense when I signed up to review it.

I think the author may have thought that's where it best fit, or she may have thought that selling it that way would make it more palatable. I'd love to ask her if she stops by here. There is some mystery and suspense to the story because the title character, Nina, is trying to save her life and those she cares about at least figuratively, if not in physical reality. Also the "secret" is not officially revealed until the climax. However, I believe any reader of this genre would figure it out early in the story.

In spite of the tension of the secret and why it's so important, and the antagonist who really doesn't want it revealed, it is not a book that fits in the genre tropes of either mystery or suspense in my opinion. That is why I labeled it Women's Fiction or Mainstream.

The story really is about Nina's journey to be free of her past and to live a life where her true self, in all its dimensions, are no longer kept secret. By keeping the secret she has put herself in as much of a prison as her abuser did. For me, the triumph of the story is watching how she is forced to that conclusion and is able to overcome her past by finally facing it head on.

Gledé Browne Kabongo said...

Thanks for the review Maggie. I found your genre label of the book and response to one reader's comment about it intriguing. The truth is, the book doesn't fall neatly into one category, which is what agents and editors want. It is part women's fiction, part psychological thriller, part commercial fiction etc. An acquisitions editor at one of the major publishing houses in New York told me it was Commercial women's fiction.

I think it's one of those circumstances where if the story captivates people, they don't care about the genre. I had an oops moment when the manuscript was completed because I realized I hadn't defined the genre going in. Some critics say that's a mistake but it depends on your perspective. If you're focused on telling the best story possible and it's well written, the genre will take care of itself.

I appreciate you taking the time to delve into this topic. Feel free to email me glede@gledebrownekabongo.com if you have questions or would like to discuss further.

Best regards,
Gledé Browne Kabongo
Author, Conspiracy of Silence

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thank you for stopping by, Glede. I can see how it would be cross genre. I suffer from that problem myself in some romantic women's fiction novels.

I agree it's the story that matters and I believe that many people will be captivated by your story. I wish you the very best with it and others you write.

bn100 said...

Nice excerpt.