Author: Fiona Palmer
Publication Date: 28 August 2018
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Fiona Palmer is an Australian author who has made a name for her heartfelt rural fiction, that’s certainly how I came across and fell in love with her work. In the years since her early rural novels she has spread her wings and delved into other genres with Young Adult Fiction and Contemporary Fiction.
This time last year we featured Secrets Between Friends as a book club read and I have been looking forward to checking out this latest book since my first glimpse of the synopsis.
Sisters and Brothers is an interesting look at families of all shapes and sizes and at times I had to sit back and wonder if it was a little too much, but it was a story that I loved with characters I found relatable and interesting.
This was actually the first book I read in September but instead of logging on to review after finishing I picked up another book and now I’m going to struggle.
The story comes to us in dual timelines as we meet Bill in the mid-70s, a single young man tuning pianos and working in a music shop with his mother. He is young, good-looking, polite and pleasant to talk to, and he’s always done really well with the clients when he is out tuning pianos in client homes. We get to know his habits and a little about who he is in the chapters set in the past.
In the present we have a host of narrators allowing us into their lives, and it is only through a slow unfurling of facts that we begin to learn their connections.
Sarah is a highly strung, high-powered professional with two young children and an equally pressured husband. Their lives are highly routined and structured, because they have to be to fit in all the functions, work and extra-curriculars for the children. Her father is an aging widow who dotes on his grandchildren.
We meet Emma next, she’s a busy nurse and mother of three whose husband works away a lot. She has two loving parents who are all about family. Emma has great relationships but feels that her housekeeping probably needs work. I loved her attitude in that she was more focused on bringing up happy, adjusted kids than having the perfect house and the perfect life. She has kids who are happy to help out and strong relationships. She has come to the realisation that striving for perfection is too stressful for everyone so she’s focused on people and everything else being good enough. Hers was a mindset I think more of us should aspire to.
Adam was raised by a loving single mother but he has always wondered about the father he never knew. He’s in his forties now and about to embark on a fostering journey with his partner, a dream they have both worked to fulfill. Adam stopped asking about his father early as he realised how much it upset his mum. A dear friend explained to her how it preyed on his mind and they decided to work together to see if they could track him down. The mother son relationship here is just beautiful, they haven’t always had it easy but they have always had each other and their unwavering support of each other is also aspirational.
Michelle was an interesting character that took me a lot longer to place in the story. She was on the periphery of the story and I couldn’t quite place her. She was strong and resilient. Michelle was adopted as a child and her and her adopted brother had always known that was the case, they had also been told that if they ever wanted to find their birth parents they would have the support of their parents. The adopted siblings had very different perspectives on finding their biological parents but when it came down to it they supported one another.
Fiona Palmer has explored family in all its shapes and sizes, from the messy to the neat, and illustrated that it doesn’t matter what your family looks like, it’s the love inside it that counts.
We have families with secrets, and families that are open; families with structure and families with chaos but most importantly we have families with love. We also have families with heartbreak and tragedy, there were definitely some elements to some of these families that broke my heart to read; characters who were faced with more than anyone should be.
I loved Sisters and Brothers, I loved the characters and their interactions, I loved the families, the stories and I loved the way it all came together. I would have liked one more chapter at the end and when you have read the book I am sure you will understand why.
Fiona Palmer goes from strength to strength and I have loved everything I have read of hers, she is definitely an author on my auto-read list and I can’t see that changing. Her characters are genuine and her ability to pull together an intriguing story are talents being honed well with each subsequent release. At times this one did have me wondering, surely not and you have to be kidding, because it seemed all a little too over the top…. while I was reading. Now that I have finished and am reflecting on the story as a whole I think it totally works. Yes, it’s still a case of surely not but that doesn’t make it any less possible.
I loved it. A captivating story with a rollercoaster of a ride for the heart that I would recommend to anyone who wants a slightly complicated family story to lose themself in.
Sisters and Brothers is book #39 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.
Thanks to Hachette Australia 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Sisters and Brothers so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I can’t wait to read what they thought.