“The Family Secret” by Fiona Palmer: A review

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I’d been excited about the release of Fiona Palmer‘s latest book The Family Secret for a very long time, because I have read and loved all of her previous books (especially The Saddler Boys). Unfortunately, I was overseas when the book was first released, but after arriving home in the early hours of the morning after a 24 hour journey home from London, you betcha, one of the first things I did was bury my nose The Family Secret. Washing and sleeping and all that fun stuff could wait. 

From bestselling author Fiona Palmer comes The Family Secret, a heartwarming story exploring love, history and family spanning three generations.

Kim Richards is a creative woman of the land, a rural ambassador who’s renowned for her contribution to her community. Though she puts on a brave face, deep down she’s lonely and heartbroken as the thought of her very own happily ever after seems to be slipping away…

That is until older businessman Charlie McNamara arrives in Lake Grace. Sparks fly between Charlie and Kim, but his sudden arrival in town and murky past makes Kim wary.

Both are drawn to the local hermit Harry, a Vietnam veteran who’s haunted by memories from the war. What is it that ties these three lost souls together? Can they solve a long-held family mystery? With their lives unexpectedly intertwined, together they are forced to confront the past and heal fractures of the heart.

Fiona does not disappoint in her eighth novel. The Family Secret brings us what we have grown to love and expect in her stories — strong women, colourful country characters, a sense of home, the Australian landscape and a sprinkling of good old romance.

Unfortunately, it did take me a little while to finish the book because I soon realised that sleep was probably a good idea – and my to-do list was huge thanks to 7 weeks overseas. (Honestly though, the 24 hour record I set for the The Saddler Boys was a bit hard to beat).

Also, when I was halfway through the book, I went down south for a camping and hiking weekend (and what could be better than sitting around at night after a long day, reading a Fiona Palmer book?) Unfortunately however, our car was broken into and our bags were stolen (including the book!) Thankfully, nothing too important was taken (the most valuable thing in the bag would have been the book!) But I soon realised that, living in the Wheatbelt, it would be a while before we could get to the shops and get another copy. Yup, I was pretty disappointed…

We were nearly home the next day when we got a call from the park ranger saying he found all our things (including the book!) scattered in the bushes. Obviously the thieves weren’t a big fan of Fiona Palmer (can’t understand why not though?) I was very happy to have the book back though and thankfully I finished it without any further dramas.

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The book definitely did not disappoint… it’s a beautiful romance, has a strong female lead character, is filled with suspense and mystery and also highlights important issues such as the PTSD experienced by Vietnam vets. It made me laugh, and it also made me cry. 

At the start, I couldn’t get over how “real life” the book was. If you’re also from the southern Wheatbelt, the mention of people such as Maree (Maree Gooch), Tanya Spencer and Nat Fyfe; as well places like the Lake Grace Regional Artspace and Camp Kulin, will probably make you feel like it’s based on your real life too. Even if you haven’t heard of the people and places mentioned, there is no doubt that you will still enjoy the book just as much (and learn about some of the amazing people and places that make up the southern Wheatbelt!)

By the end, I was so into the book that I couldn’t put it down. With only a few pages left, there were still so many unsolved mysteries and it became so intense and exciting! The resolution was both shocking and beautiful… but I won’t give away any spoilers. You’ll have to read it yourself! 

If you have read The Saddler Boys (and if you haven’t, you should!) it’s also interesting to see Nat and Drew’s romance from Kim’s perspective. The books don’t have to be read together, but it felt as though I was checking up on old friends (Nat, Drew and Billy from The Saddler Boys!) and great to see how they were getting along…

Yet again, Fiona Palmer has crafted an amazing read that you won’t want to put down. It would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone special (even yourself!) and it’s available now in hard copy and eBook version. 

You can buy your own copy of The Family Secret online here.

Have you read The Family Secret yet? Do you have a favourite Fiona Palmer book?

Penguin Books sent Wheatbelt Local a copy of The Family Secret, although all opinions are my own and 100% true!

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