Australian Author · Contemporary/Literary · Domestic Drama · Read-Reviewed-2020

The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan. (2020).


The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan. (2020).

**4.5 out of 5 stars**

When Shirley signs her 83 year old husband Frank out of the nursing home, she has no intention of bringing him back. For 57 years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. Frank’s dementia means he does not always know who Shirley is, but he knows he wants to go home; back to the beach where they met in the early 1960s. So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities, and their furious daughter Fiona, to give Frank the holiday he’d always dreamed of. And in doing so, perhaps Shirley can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret…

I’ve read one book by this author previously and loved it (The Shape of Us), then I kept seeing amazing reviews for this one so I was really looking forward to this release. Thankfully it did not disappoint! The plot alternates between now, where Shirley has taken Frank from his nursing home, and the other timeline follows their relationship from their first meeting in the early 1960s. Honestly, my heart breaks any time I read about a character with dementia that can’t recognise their family and this was true again in this book. I liked Shirley…but I really liked “elderly” Shirley over younger Shirley; elderly Shirley is a cracker! The ending was slightly ambiguous in that you can guess one of two things that have happened. I have it on very good authority that if you reach out to the author, she will send you an epilogue which satisfy your mind. There’s a lot of very emotional concepts in this novel which really tugged at the heartstrings.
I highly recommend this heartwarming and moving novel.

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