The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is set in 1930’s coastal Dongarra, but the themes of public versus private identity, what it takes to hold a family together, and the heavy burden of secrets resonate just as much in present day.
Lily and her family are forced to start again in Dongarra after their wheat farm fails. In Dongarra, appearances and social standing are everything, and Lily strives to fit in with the women of the Country Womens’ Association. Meanwhile, her daughter Girlie feels like she can never measure up to her mother’s expectations, and that beneath the veneer the adults around her present to the world, there lies a multitude of secret shames and hidden traits.
As the stakes for their family rise, and Lily’s control of the situation falters, all of the main characters must come to terms with what they truly value. The eye of the storm is Lily’s brother Tommy, a war veteran with PTSD, who threatens to expose Lily’s past and whose erratic nature brings a darkness to their household. He seeks answers to questions she would prefer to bury, and his presence brings an interesting menace to the story.
I enjoyed the layers of this book, the discomfort of its pages made me think about dysfunction, how false surfaces can be, fragility within families and how many prefer to avoid truth in favour of appearances and status. But at its core was the love that holds family together, and how it can overcome all these things. I look forward to more from Kali Napier.