Seattle-area author Deb Caletti’s new novel, “The Secrets She Keeps,” traces the lives of two women, aunt and niece, as they revive their familial bonds on a Nevada “ranch.” Caletti reads Friday, July 31, at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

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Just in time for vacation leisure time, Seattle-area author Deb Caletti transports readers to the desert of Reno, Nev. — in the present day and in 1951.

“The Secrets She Keeps” (Bantam, 347 pp., $15) is about loyalty and long-lasting bonds, and is young-adult author Caletti’s second offering for adults, after 2013’s “He’s Gone.” Like that Seattle-set novel, it enticingly unravels a central mystery.

“Secrets” alternates between the stories of two women, Callie and Nash. Callie is a Seattleite in full midlife-crisis mode. She’s grieving her empty nest after her younger daughter’s high-school graduation; shaken by the death of her beloved dog; and floored when she suspects that her good-guy husband is having an affair. Callie’s aunt, Nash, is a fiercely independent octogenarian in failing health living alone on the sprawling, dilapidated Reno property that is her family’s legacy. Tamarosa Ranch had “swapped cattle for divorcees in the late 1930s,” in its heyday hosting society women and starlets seeking to establish residency in Nevada for six weeks “for a quickie divorce when a divorce was a difficult thing to get.”

Author appearance

Deb Caletti

The author of “The Secrets She Keeps” will appear at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 31, at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or She will read at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co.; free (206-624-6600 or

Both Callie and Nash have been the dutiful, dependable ones opposite flighty sisters — Shaye in Callie’s case and, in Nash’s, Gloria, who is Callie and Shaye’s mother. When Gloria learns that Nash seems to be losing her faculties, she asks Callie and Shaye to check in on their aunt. The sisters descend, uninvited, on an irritated Nash, who slowly warms to their company and opens up about her past and her plans.

Callie’s chapters find her trying to get herself together, reflecting on relationships and parenthood in ways both wry and heart-tugging. Caletti has fun capturing the sibling spark and easy banter between Callie and Shaye, annoying and amusing each other like no one else can. There’s no end to Shaye’s ribbing when a Bureau of Land Management representative on a mustang-rescue mission who looks “very Redford-Out-of-Africa-y” takes a shine to Callie.

Nash’s chapters flash back to the fateful summer when, at barely 18, she is left in charge of the divorce ranch while her mother tends to a crisis in sister Gloria’s life. Nervous but spunky Nash whips up martinis and Moscow mules for the women in her care, and drives them to casinos and the courthouse in a boatlike Chevy Styleline Deluxe. Before an outing to the Cal Neva Resort in Tahoe, the ranch house is filled with “the swish of chiffon against stockings …” The ranch hands, including Nash’s crush, handsome Jack, who to her mortification calls her Peanut, escort the ladies on these outings, sharing drinks and dances. Jack is drawn to Lily, a young pregnant actress escaping her loutish director husband. But Nash’s jealousy is tempered by her growing friendship with gentle Lily, with whom she shares a love of books.

Callie’s prosaic story, except where it intersects with Nash’s, pales in comparison to Nash’s compelling narrative. But both would make for good company on a beach chair or hammock.