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Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - by Kali Napier, Ha­chette

When Ernie poured his money into a wheat farm in Western Aus­tralia, he thought he was securing a fu­ture for wife Lily and daugh­ter Girlie. But it’s 1932 and the De­pres­sion is hit­ting hard. The promised gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies fail to even­tu­ate and the house Ernie has in­her­ited from his fa­ther burns down in a mys­te­ri­ous fire; worse still, it isn’t in­sured. This is where we join the Hass fam­ily, pack­ing up, leav­ing their Abo­rig­i­nal home-help to be sent back to the mis­sion, and head­ing for Don­garra on the coast. Ernie is hid­ing his shame be­hind a veil of op­ti­mism and Lily is a well of sad­ness cloaked in pull-your­self-to­gether gump­tion. Girlie is 10 and un­der­stands lit­tle, not just of the harsh re­al­i­ties of her fam­ily’s plight, but also of the web of se­crets that has brought them to this. Once in Don­garra, Lily sets about trans­form­ing a tum­ble­down ware­house into a guest­house and home while also try­ing to climb the so­cial lad­der within the tight-knit com­mu­nity. Per­cep­tion is all in Don­garra and she and Ernie pray that vi­cious gos­sip from their past doesn’t catch up with them. Then into this frac­tured world comes Tommy, who has tracked down his sis­ter Lily and is suf­fer­ing from shell­shock. Lily wants to help him, but Ernie is less wel­com­ing. This beau­ti­fully writ­ten, in­tense tale of a fam­ily’s heart-rend­ing search for be­long­ing is Kali Napier’s de­but novel, but there’s a so­phis­ti­ca­tion to her sto­ry­telling. The se­crets of the ti­tle un­furl slowly with hints drip­ping through ev­ery page. But it’s the char­ac­ters that make this tale, steeped in the racial ten­sions of the day. “The story was loosely in­spired by my an­ces­tors,” Kali says. “There are many gaps in my fam­ily tree as a re­sult of mi­gra­tion, es­trange­ment and sec­ond mar­riages. The few sto­ries I was told in my younger years are my only con­nec­tions. When I gave my daugh­ter a syn­op­sis of The Se­crets at Ocean’s Edge, she sobbed, think­ing the daugh­ter-char­ac­ter, Girlie, was her. I told her she was wrong – Girlie is me!” The most poignant ob­ser­va­tions come from wide-eyed Girlie, who is in­deed the moral com­pass of the novel.

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