Review: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

Title: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this powerful, affecting debut, 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.


Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan is an intriguing novel about a young woman who is haunted by the death of her best friend ten years earlier.

Although Julie Portland managed to escape from the small southern town where she grew up, she  is still haunted by the death of her best friend Reba McLeod. While the events surrounding Reba’s fateful fall from a bridge are hazy, Julie is certain she is responsible for her friend’s death. Haunted by her memories, she is barely getting by as she raises her five her old daughter, Beck, in New York City. When Reba’s former boyfriend August Elliott tracks Julie down and begs her to return to Lawrence Mill, Mississippi to find Reba’s diary, she reluctantly agrees to his plan. Will finding Reba’s long lost diary provide Julie and August the answers they both need to finally lay the ghosts of their pasts to rest?

Best friends from the moment they met when they were five years old, Julie and Reba are thick as thieves until their senior year in high school. The two begin growing apart soon after the school year starts and Julie begins practicing for an upcoming play. Reba continues working in the local flower shop where she meets newcomer August Elliot. Immediately attracted to the young man, the two begin secretly dating since Reba’s bigoted father will not approve of his daughter having an African American boyfriend.

Julie knows that Reba is keeping a secret from her and after she sees her leaving her cousin Toby’s bedroom late one night, she is stunned by his revelation.  Julie and Reba have a huge fight over this disclosure and although they finally make up, things are not quite the same between them. Reba’s behavior is completely out of character and Julie wants to get to the bottom of what is happening with her best friend.  However, before she can uncover the truth, Reba is dead and soon after, Julie leaves for college.

Julie and August’s return to Lawrence Mill quickly resurrects their unsettled feelings about the events leading up to Reba’s tragic death. Despite repeated warnings to leave the past alone, Julie finally locates Reba’s diary.  The diary entries are somewhat shocking since Reba wrote detailed accounts of exactly what she doing in the months before falling from bridge. Both Julie and August are stunned to discover the truth about Reba but will this newfound knowledge help them come to terms with the demons that have plagued them for so long?

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan is a captivating novel of healing and redemption.  Written from multiple points of view (including Reba’s diary entries), the story unfolds in a leisurely fashion that quite is riveting. With unexpected twists and turns, this well-written, suspenseful read comes to a completely satisfying and somewhat surprising conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Haley Harrigan, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Secrets of Southern Girls, Sourcebooks Landmark, Women's Fiction

2 Responses to Review: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy

  2. Katherine

    I am not usually a fan of women’s fiction but this sounds intriguing to me.