Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Fiona Palmer has made a name for herself as a rural romance writer. She has written nine bestselling novels and an earlier book Secrets Between Friends was a Top 5 best seller in 2017. Her latest contribution Sisters and Brothers is not the usual type of romance. Set around Perth in Western Australia, the inspiring landscapes she is so known for are not as prominent in this novel but it is the down to earth characters which take central place. It is dedicated to family, in any shape or form.
This story is about four separate families who have a connection to Bill the piano tuner and the type of connection is gradually revealed as the story unfolds. Seventy-two year old Bill has had a heart attack while undergoing hip surgery. Having lost the love of his life he is depressed and these separate families are just what Bill needs to give his life purpose.
Each of these families is so completely different that one wonders, “How can they help Bill?”
Sarah is Bill’s only child, and is married with two well behaved children but her desire to keep up with the other mums is causing her stress and she feels she is drifting away from her husband.
Emma is a nurse, who has three children and a husband who is away a lot working in the mines. This is a happy, noisy, messy family who share a lot of love.
Adam grew up in a single parent family and has just become engaged to his male partner. They would dearly like to adopt a child and create a happy family.
Michelle has grown up in a loving family and has always known that she and her brother were both adopted. At forty-six she believes she has lost the opportunity of ever having a family of her own. She now has a desire to find out about her biological parents.
When I first started reading this novel I did not engage with the characters but through perseverance I gradually found myself drawn into the lives of the various families.
Many questions are raised in these family stories. The central theme is that of adoption and biological paternity – should the children be told and when, adoption or fostering by gay couples, the feelings of adoptee parents and fear of losing their children, will the biological parent want to see the child who was given up, and how do all the children who become involved feel about this situation?
I had the feeling that the storyline involving Michelle was an afterthought but this might be because she is not in a family situation at this time. Having said that, her story made the whole situation a little more realistic because, of all the sub-stories, her’s did not end in a ‘happy ever after situation’.
I was also quite amused that Bill, the piano tuner, could have reaped so many rewards or otherwise from his encounters before he met his wife Debbie. What are the odds?
Sisters and Brothers is an engaging story for those who persevere and brings to light many issues that could be controversial in today’s society.