The Song of Us by J. D. Barrett – Book Review

Zoe was a concert harpist playing internationally until an incident put her career on hold and she returned to her home in Bondi to regroup. Five years later she is having a relationship with a man unable to leave his ill wife, watching the affairs of those around her and playing music to those in hospital dying. It is one of her clients who challenges her, forcing Zoe to make some tough choices. How is she going to live her life?

It’s always fascinating to me how a good writer can create a character who is making terrible choices (especially choices that are quite immoral or just plain nasty) and still have the audience on side. Barrett creates great characters who have these dilemmas and don’t always make the healthiest choices for themselves, but you can’t help but be by their side. I was cheering Zoe on – well, at times, I was just yelling at her to sort herself out, but the whole time, she was my gal and I wanted to see her treated right. Oh, and June? And Clem? Gold.

The Secret Recipe for Second Chances by J.D. Barrett – Book Review

Lucy Muir is part of a chef power couple in Sydney with her husband. Only after one too many affairs, she’s left him and returned to her mother. In the post break-up haze, she stumbles across an abandoned restaurant, Fortune, that was a hit back in its hey day. Drawn to it, she enlists the help of friends and family to get the place up and running… but in doing this, she gets help from the strangest of places – a ghost. Frankie only appears to Lucy, and it is his kindness and instruction that not only gets everything working, but pulls Lucy back into the real world.

This is such a fun novel. It’s not just fun – there are a lot of tears too; I mean, the whole thing takes place in the middle of one of the most traumatic events (after death of loved ones, of course) that a person can go through – the betrayal by a loved one and the need to reinvent yourself to recover. Barrett has included some delightful recipes to go along with the text, but it is the relationships that will really steal your heart. Well, and having a ghost as a main character – that’s just loads of fun!