It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Story of Our Secrets by Shari Low, and to share my review: published by Boldwood Books on 2nd November, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
It really took me far too long to rediscover Shari Low’s writing, a quite ridiculous ten years after I read and really enjoyed Friday Night with the Girls. I really loved her last book, One Summer Sunrise – engaging and compelling, wonderful storytelling, and the perfect summer read (you’ll find my review here). So I was really delighted that there wasn’t too long to wait for the next one…
Colm O’Flynn was loved by his close circle of family and friends, however his death came too soon for everyone to make peace with their past.
Shauna, his second wife, adored him. But one night she broke their marriage vows, and didn’t get time to ask Colm’s forgiveness.
Jess was the first Mrs O’Flynn. Her heart is set on someone new, but will the last one night stand she shared with Colm come back to haunt her?
Colm’s best friend, Dan, is recently divorced. Can he take a second shot at happiness if it means betraying the one person who always had his back?
What no-one knows is that somewhere out there Colm left messages that could set them free to start over again.
Can divine intervention help them find Colm’s last wishes before it’s too late to love again?
It’s five years since Shauna lost her husband Colm to a brain tumour – and there are still those nights when she’s unable to do any more than sit on the utility room floor with a bottle of prosecco, desolately watching her washing going round. Although they had plenty of opportunities, they could never bring themselves to talk about the future and what would happen after he was gone – and they never discussed those moments of guilt and betrayal that now figure large in her memories.
This book is largely about friendships – the friends they both shared have rallied round, and continue to do so, providing support to both her and her young daughter Beth. She now lives in the flat above Dan, after moving out from the home she had with Colm to escape the painful memories. Dan’s former wife Lulu is another close friend – she’s now remarried, indecently quickly, to a man she thinks will keep her in the style she feels she deserves, leaving Dan heartbroken. And then there’s Jess – she was Colm’s first wife, and through the years of sharing parenthood of Colm’s twin sons the women became firm friends.
There’s a degree of revolving doors about their various relationships, each having keys to each others’ flats, dropping in on a whim, sometimes looking for refuge with a suitcase in tow. Although the relationships between them all are volatile – and become increasingly so when Jess decides that both Shauna and Dan need her skills as a life coach, and even worse when a few deeply held secrets surface and complicate things further – the supportive friendships they all have are what keep them going.
And as we watch their relationships ebbing and flowing, all accompanied by jokey banter covering up the moments of sadness and heartbreak, we revisit Colm in the days before he died – making videos for them all, dealing with all those issues that they were never able to find the right time to talk about.
Every character in this book is exceptionally well drawn, and all their exchanges – the plot of this book is largely carried by the dialogue – have tremendous crackle and fizz and a lot of humour. And there’s also a lot of poignancy – I could really feel Shauna’s loss of the love of her life, and the depth of her regrets. But I must admit that I did struggle to take to either Lulu or Jess – the book’s pace was just a touch too frenetic for me (I’m sure many readers will love it), with a little too much banter and backchat, and I did find empathy and engagement just a little bit difficult. But I loved the deeper emotional content – the book’s conclusion is a real heartbreaker, and so very well-handled and cleverly done.
I did rather prefer her last book, with a wider and more diverse cast of characters – but I do really like Shari Low’s writing, which is certainly very different with a style that’s very much her own. I’ll very happily put my slightly less enthusiastic praise for this one down to wrong day, wrong book (hey, it happens…) – and I’ll still be very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.
About the author
Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 25 novels, including One Day In Summer, My One Month Marriage, and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow.