Title: Silkworm Secrets
Author: Lea Davey
Published: March 4th 2017
Publisher: Valeena Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian
Rating: 5 stars
A treehouse perched high in a giant mulberry tree provides a safe place for Bobby, and gives him solace from a disintegrating home life. His best friend Ruby considers it only as a place to play, to raise silkworms and to innocently view the events that take place in the yards nearby.
Ruby’s simple, family life however, is a far cry from what Bobby endures in the house next door and the secrets they share and events that they witness will not only impact their lives as children but also re-connect them as adults.
Silkworm Secrets exposes the secrets that children keep, the consequences of a troubled family life, but more importantly the endurance of beautiful family relationships and the power of friendship and love to overcome the past.
The power of childhood friendship is the flavour of Australian author Lea Davey’s second novel. I recently read and very much enjoyed Lea Davey’s first novel, The Shack by the Bay but Silkworm Secrets captured my heart from the opening, to the close of this Australian fiction novel.
Ruby and Bobby are neighbours. They are also the best of friends. Their favourite place to spend time together is in a treehouse nestled in Ruby’s backyard. There, the two close friends also tend to a silkworm collection and share a secret or two. For Bobby, the treehouse and time with Ruby offers comfort, as well as respite from his volatile family life. With his mother a depressed recluse, his younger sister Sally to care for as she is intellectually impaired and his older sister Theresa longing to break free from their strict father, Ruby’s treehouse offers Bobby a lifeline. In contrast, Ruby’s life is a safe and happy one. She is the only child of two loving parents. As the two children grown up, things get even tougher for Bobby and his family. One day Bobby divulges a big secret to Ruby and it is a secret that eventually leads to Bobby to run away from home. Years later, Ruby decides to search for Bobby. Bobby now is the lifeline in saving his sister and other poor victims from the clutches of a terrible human being who ruined Bobby’s family. Ruby’s quickly learns that Bobby is not someone who wants to be easily found or taken away from his life in solicitude as a drifter in the country. Ruby and Bobby must band together once again, now as adults, to put the past to rest.
My first feelings of Silkworm Secrets are of delight. Lea Davey completely impressed me with her follow up novel to The Shack by the Bay. Silkworm Secrets is an emotional and moving novel. Ruby and Bobby’s story reminds us the durability of love, the strength of friendship and the power of the human spirit.
Davey inserts some hard hitting themes in her novel that really struck a chord with me. Within her compelling narrative, Davey incorporates issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, infidelity, infertility and mental health problems. These themes are handled with extreme care and sensitivity but for those who have difficulty reading about these painful and dark aspects of life, this book may trigger uncomfortable feelings.
Relationships are at the forefront of this novel and are depicted very well by the author. I loved the pureness of the childhood friendship between Bobby and Ruby. Following their journey in the earlier parts of the novel was like taking a step back in time to my own childhood. Although roughly twenty years later than the characters in the novel (1980’s) I still felt a sense of nostalgia wash over me, thanks to Davey’s storytelling abilities. It was such a basic, simpler childhood than my own children are experiencing today. I thank Lea Davey for reminding me of those fond times through her narrative. The relationship in the latter part of the book between Bobby and Ruby as they try to reconnect after years apart was a genuine one. The romance in this novel is subtle and I enjoyed the transition the main characters made from friends, to eventual partners in life. Aside from Bobby and Ruby’s relationship, there is the enduring relationship between Ruby and her father Francis, a real shining feature of the novel. Davey’s characters all seemed to make me either laugh, reach for the tissues or draw me deep into their lives.
As with Davey’s previous novel, The Shack by the Bay, I noted her ability to convey a strong sense of place. Silkworm Secrets is just as good in this area, if not a touch better. From the sunshine coast in Queensland, through to the country setting, the landscape is always a strong feature. Davey’s sense of imagery is refined, enabling the reader to be given an ideal picture of the area in which she covering. Even the treehouse featured in the earlier scenes of the novel came across beautifully on the page of this novel.
Silkworm Secrets is a tale that will continue to resonate long after you have said goodbye to this book. The combination of a compelling storyline, characters you grow to care for and the true Australian setting makes this an easy five star read.
Silkworm Secrets by Lea Davey was published in July 2017 by Valeena Press.
Learn more about the author of Silkworm Secrets, Lea Davey here.
*With thanks to the author, Lea Davey, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.