The Wrong Sister by Fiona Palmer

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

The story The Wrong Sister by Fiona Palmer is an interesting and easy book to read about family relationships, growing up and forming new relationships outside the family, as well as the impact on families of devastating diseases. What a tangled web Fiona Palmer has given the reader in her latest book.

Set in some beautiful scenery in Western Australia, her characters are tested as they try to find their life’s path. The main setting is Albany, a cattle ranch in the outback of the state and the beautiful Karijini country. Her settings add much to the story as the reader feels transported to the location of the action of the story. I enjoyed learning about the scenery in this part of Australia.

Fiona Palmer’s familiarity with Western Australia shows in her story. The reader feels the heat while chasing cattle in a jeep, rushing over undulating land with its various dangers with a helicopter flying low overhead. And the contrast of the rugged beauty of a Western Australian National Park with ‘the stunning beauty of the rocks and the cool green water’ (127).

Ellen Sutton is usually the one who ensures that everyone else is ok. She was the one who had inherited the caring gene. She was a nurse in the maternity ward. She ensured that family celebrations were well organised and perfect for those at the centre of attention. She had a close relationship with her siblings and would do anything to protect them and their feelings. So why has she suddenly thrown in the job she loves and left town to work on a cattle property in the heat and dust?

Her brother is in love with a girl who is also close to Ellen. But is their road to matrimony going to be a smooth one? Ellen’s younger sister often feels left out but loves her siblings. Sometimes she feels lost. At the beginning of the book, I became a bit confused jumping from the present to the past. The timing of some of the early incidents didn’t seem to jell. Eventually as more facts were revealed, things became clearer.

As the title suggests there is a love triangle involving the sisters. One is oblivious to the situation while the other doesn’t want others to be hurt so tries to carry the burden all by herself.

Trying to do the right thing by everyone often makes life more complicated than it need be. As the story progresses the characters learn that secrets can hurt others. Once the truths are revealed, although there may be temporary hurt, things are always best when all the facts are known, and a solution can usually be found. At least in stories like this one.

By adding a backpacker from overseas, the author has highlighted life in Australia and allowed the reader to see the landscape and customs from a different perspective. The medical issues within the story add depth to the storyline and add a different understanding to personal situations.

I enjoy Fiona Palmer’s writing. It takes one away from the tasks of the day to a place where one can relax while becoming engrossed in someone else’s journey through a stage of their life, knowing that all problems will be solved by the time you reach the end of the book.

The Wrong Sister

(2022)

by Fiona Palmer

Hachette

ISBN:978-0-7336-4622-5

$32.99; 352pp

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