Saturday, 3 June 2006

Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly

Past Secrets
Cathy Kelly
(HarperCollins €)

EVERYONE has a house that lives somewhere behind their dreams, the perfect house where they’d live in a perfect world.

In the touchy-feely religion, if you visualise this house strongly enough it’ll come to you. So somewhere in the world there’s a stone house on a mountain by a waterfall looking down on the sea waiting for me, with the weather always just right – drifting cloud, mist boiling up from the cove, forgiving sunlight.

In Cathy Kelly’s dream, perfection is a curving street of warm redbrick houses. “If a road could look welcoming, then Summer Street had both arms out and the kettle boiling,” Past Secrets begins – a sentence that brings a lump to the throat.

Summer Street is full of secrets, but it’s full of goodwill too. At its centre are the Devlins – especially Christie, the art teacher who knows all about every kid in the neighbourhood – but also knows how to mind her own business and trust the kids.

Christie knows that gorgeous, talented teenager Amber Reid is mitching. Amber is the daughter of secrets – her mother hasn’t told her the truth about her father, and chickens are stretching their wings, preparing to come home to roost.

Across the country in Galway (oddly, 300 miles from Dublin, rather than the 135 it is on my odometer!) Maggie Maguire of this parish is about to find out the truth about the gorgeous guy she lives with.

And unnoticed by most people, a notice is flapping on the lovely old pavilion in the park, saying that developers would just love to build some nice clunky building there.

In Summer Street Café, everyone meets and chats and shares help and confidences and troubles.

This is the perfect book for the flu – high praise; you need a great story and a book long enough to last you three days for the flu. It’s also a book to give a friend going through a break-up, with its warm, cuddly feeling that things will come right in the end.

It’s like the street at its centre – welcoming, full of stories and secrets, and great to come home to. Another hit from Cathy Kelly.