Author: Rachael Johns
The Art of Keeping Secrets is the latest life-lit by Rachael Johns and I can safely say it’s her best yet. Though I suppose I should add, in my opinion. She has tackled tough but topical issues and she has done so with sensitivity and still a sense of wit.
This book has been on my desk for a couple of weeks and I have been putting it off knowing that I can’t put my review up for another couple of weeks… well I just couldn’t ignore it any longer. And once I started I have been ignoring everything else… washing, eating, family.
There are so many things I want to tell you about this amazing story but I don’t want to take away the impact of reading it for yourselves so I am going to have to be careful how I approach it.
Flick, Neve and Emma are best of friends, they met when their sons started at an elite private high school and hit it off because they didn’t fit in with the rest of the mothers. They certainly weren’t ladies who lunched and though they have careers they love but they aren’t the high profile careers of the other school mums.
As is often the case it’s hard to know whose close friendship came first, the mothers or the sons, but the families all became quite close and spent lots of time together. They became more like extended family than just friends.
The three woman are quite different and their home situations are worlds apart as well but they have an empathetic bond that sees them try to understand the other situations, though it’s always quite difficult to wear another shoes in these situations. They share everything, or at least they thought they did….
It seems that there are secrets in all of their lives and when they come out the collateral damage could be very far reaching.
Secrets are a tricky business, especially if you have been keeping them for a lot of years; the way Flick and Neve have been. It gets to the point where the fear of revealing the truth is a toss up between the reaction to the truth and the anger of the fact that the secret has been between you for so many years. By their nature though, secrets have a habit of coming out in the end regardless of whether you want them to or not.
I read an ARC of The Art of Keeping Secrets so I’m not sure if this is something that changed in the finished copy, but in the copy I read the chapters are headed by the full name of the character whose head we are in for that chapter – and all references in the story are by their nicknames. It took me a couple of chapters to get my head around it but it was no real biggie.
The story is told in alternating chapters by each of the friends as we follow them through a tumultuous stage in each of their lives as their sons are coming up to their year 12 graduations. This story is a perfect example of everything going wrong at once, and I’m going to do something I never do and put a line in here that actually made me laugh out loud.
Neve was right – their lives were a shambles. Someone could write a book about them.
This was just the perfect example, everything went so terrifically wrong all at once that it had to be immortalised…. and it was by the talented Rachael Johns.
Neve’s secret is the first to break and it sees her booking a trip to New York, just days after the three friends were talking about how much they needed to splurge on a girls getaway. In the end Flick and Emma join Neve on her trip to offer support, and soak up the shopping.
The trip offers them some wonderful girl time but it is marred by the stress all three women are under. It brings them together while at times threatening to tear apart even their strong bonds.
All three of these women are strong and independent, they are relatable and realistic and they could be any one of us. They find themselves in situations where it would be so easy to judge, and each of the women find themselves sitting in judgement at one time or another but they also recognise the derogatory effect of judgement and work hard to get past that so they can offer the support that is really needed.
The events faced by each of the women, and in effect the three of them together, show them a new perspective and offer an opportunity for reflection and for change.
The situations faced by Flick, Emma and Neve are not ones that have touched my life, though there are similar ones in my wider circle so these were very new concepts for me to actually try to wrap my head around.
An amazing tale of friendship, love, tribulation and the ability to get through anything life throws at you with the right support network.
Johns has tackled some hard-hitting topics with sensitivity and insight and she’s brought one rather high profile social issue of our times in close and made it personal, and she’s done it well.
This is definitely the best work I have read by Rachael Johns and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
The Art of Keeping Secrets is book #36 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.