Author: Fiona Palmer
The Family Secret takes us back to the setting of The Saddler Boys, and reacquaints us with the characters we fell in love with. We return to the small town of Lake Grace, a place of community and family where everyone knows everyone; and their business.
Kim is a farm-girl through and through, sharing the running of her family’s farm with her brother. She’s been unlucky in love, falling for her best friend and having her trust in men destroyed by past lovers. I don’t think it helps that in a town as small as Lake Grace the options are rather limited, and Kim’s love of the farm keeps her dressed as a farmer and under the radar of the men in town she has known most of her life. Kim is also an extremely talented artist though she only recognises it as a hobby. She is involved in a lot of things around town so her downtime is definitely limited.
Charlie moves to town as an insurance agent and there is immediate chemistry but Charlie is carrying quite a bit of baggage of his own. There is more to his arrival in Lake Grace than meets the eye and he’s not ready to share the information.
These two are interesting leads; Kim is a woman happy in her life but lonely and wondering if she will ever have the family she so desperately desires and Charlie is distancing himself from his family so that he can wrap his head around his discovery and try to find the answers he seeks.
Early on though we meet another new character, a man called Harry who works on a local farm and never leaves the property. There have been stories around town for years and he was a character the kids used to scare each other with stories of. Kim meets him one night in the middle of a storm when she gets stranded between floodways and drops her phone in the water. After initial worry because of all the stories she has heard she goes with her gut and spends the evening with Harry.
Kim and Harry get on well and seem to form a connection, Kim is drawn to the older generation for the stories they can tell and the history they carry. This is the beginning of a budding friendship that sees Kim stop in to visit semi-regularly.
This story contains quite an intriguing element of suspense, it is written from different perspectives and two different time periods. We spend some time in the late sixties when a local Lake Grace man is drafted and prepares to head to Vietnam.
All of the elements of the story run on their own arc and some start to come together before others.
Fiona has written another involving small town story that will pull you in and not let you go. The characters are well written and three dimensional, they are all sympathetic and relatable.
The Vietnam war is a time in history that is hard for anyone to understand that wasn’t there. I am not familiar with the period in more than a perfunctory manner. I know that Australians were conscripted for national service and were required to do their duty for their country, whether they agreed or not. I also know that many Australians didn’t agree with our troops being involved at all and our returned servicemen were given quite a hard time when they did make it back. Palmer has done some extensive research into the Vietnam war and it shows, we have letters home from Vietnam and whole chapters told by soldiers on their tour of duty. We also have a heartbreaking look at life for one returned soldier.
The Family Secret is a heart-warming story of family and community, a heart-breaking look at PTSD and a welcome return to the picturesque town of Lake Grace.
The Family Secret is book #52 for The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.