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Book Review: The Family Secret


The Family Secret
: Fiona Palmer
Published: 2016
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
My Rating: 4.5/5

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy The Family Secret as much as I did. Although I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I must admit I did. And the cover did nothing for me. In fact, I was very close to not buying the book because of the cover, but the back blurb intrigued me, so I decided to look past my reservations and dive in anyway. And I’m glad I did.

Fiona Palmer is an Australian best-selling author of rural fiction with eight successful books under her belt, renowned for her authentic Australian storytelling. This was my first Fiona Palmer book, but won’t be my last.

The Family Secret is set in the small farming community of Lake Grace where we are introduced to the main character; Kim Richards. Kim is a farmer, and rural ambassador with a great sense of pride for her local community. She is head-strong, confident, but has been unfortunate when it comes to love. Kim has a tendency to pick the wrong guys! Enter Charlie, a handsome newcomer to Lake Grace working at the local insurance agency. When Kim and Charlie meet, the attraction is instant, and mutual.

However, this isn’t a story of love and its many hurdles.

Kim has recently befriended Harry, who works as a farm hand on one of the neighbouring farms. Harry is reclusive and has a shady reputation. But Kim looks beyond the gossip and innuendo to find Harry is also a returned Vietnam veteran with many painful memories and secrets.

The three characters are drawn together in an intriguing mystery that will keep you turning the page to find out how these unlikely souls lives are intertwined.

I really enjoyed Fiona’s writing, particularly her use of setting. Fiona captures the rural setting with a delicate sense of respect. You can tell Fiona has a deep affection for rural Australia. It’s evident in the way she sets every scene with beauty and grace.

I also found the characters well developed. Each character had a unique voice and story. This includes the secondary characters which add a sense of community, friendship, and love to the story. Doris is a hoot! As for Kim, I found her to be a strong lead character, but one who was also vulnerable and open, as was Charlie. But it was Harry’s story which pulled at my heartstrings.

Fiona handles the past timeline where we follow the story of John, whom Harry meets in Vietnam, with great respect. As it so deserves. She tenderly conveys the many emotions felt by all the characters during this time, and the many issues they had to deal with – including the treatment of the returned soldiers, which I wasn’t aware of. Could you imagine having anything but respect for those who fought for our country? Well apparently some sections of the community didn’t feel the same way at the end of the Vietnam war.

The Family Secret is not your typical novel in any respect. It’s not a typical rural romance, nor a typical straight romance. Neither is it a typical historical or contemporary novel. It is a beautiful mix of all of this and more. I’d highly recommend this heartwarming, honest story to anyone. Fiona, you’ve won a new fan.