The Healer’s Secret Kindle Edition
Staying in her family’s centuries-old cottage, she becomes embroiled in a mysterious tragedy involving her great-grandmother. As she delves further into her ancestors’ history, she discovers there is more to her heritage than meets the eye.
Ghosts from the past could give Jennifer something she thought she’d never have: a future. But that depends on whether she can resist temptation and avoid slipping back into her old ways.
Will she be able to conquer her inner demons and discover the healer’s secret?
Best Book Bit:
Aunt Liliana dragged me across the square and led me along a narrow road that quickly became a steep slope, chattering the whole time. She marched sprightly up the street and I tried to keep up with her, but soon had to rest. I put my bags down and leant against the wall of a house, gasping, trying to get my breath back and stop the trembling in my legs. She turned and looked at me, a huge smile on her face.
“Oh, you tourists, it’s always the same! You’ll get used to the climb, although your legs will ache for a few days.” She burst out laughing. “Come on, it’s not far now.”
I grunted and forced myself into motion once more, my calves complaining the whole time. Her house was in one of the back streets, right at the top of the slope. I puffed my way up the road as she opened the front door and waited impatiently.
“Come in, come in, prego, they are all here, I’ll introduce you…”
I was greeted by a chorus of Italian salutations and enveloped in hugs and kisses, my ears filled with loud exclamations and a chaotic jumble of people all talking at once. Bewildered, I tried to join in enthusiastically but ended up just standing there, grinning insanely at everyone, completely lost for words.
Aunt Liliana soon took control of the situation. “That’s enough, everyone. Look at poor Jennifer, she can hardly think for all the confusion you are making. Come, let’s go and sit down.” Everyone stood back as I trailed after her into the kitchen, blushing furiously.
“Now I introduce you properly, one at a time,” she declared, glaring at the others. I put a hand over my mouth to cover a smile, amused by their contrite faces. I’d heard of the Italian matriarch, but it was quite something to see one in action.
The rest of the family turned out to be Uncle Dante, Aunt Liliana’s long-suffering husband who didn’t seem to speak much but just nodded in agreement with his wife, and their grown-up children Lorenzo, Davide and his wife Giulia, whose 8-year-old daughter Beatrice was at school, and Agnese. I noticed that Davide’s wife, Giulia was pregnant, her bump showing under her cotton dress, and I felt a small wave of jealousy wash over me. I pushed it away and tried to concentrate on the introductions.
“This isn’t our whole family, we have more relatives down in the valley but we rarely see them since my mother died.” Aunt Liliana sniffed in disdain, as though it were a disgrace to have such a small group gathered together in one place. I was secretly grateful there were only six of them, I could hardly imagine what it would have been like if everyone had turned up.
“And there’s Mario,” Lorenzo added. “He lives over the other side of the village, but we don’t see much of him either.”
“Mario prefers his own company,” Aunt Liliana explained in a dismissive tone. “I’m sure you’ll meet him eventually.”
“You will stay for lunch.” Uncle Dante’s booming voice startled me, it was the first time he’d spoken.
“Oh no, I couldn’t, it’s too much…” I started, but I was soon drowned out by the rest of them.
“Of course you must, we were going to eat together anyway and one more person won’t hurt. You can tell us all about England, about your mother… we haven’t seen her for such a long time… we speak on the phone but it’s not the same… it’s a shame your greatgrandmother Luisa is no longer with us, she would have loved to have seen you…” and on and on it went, like being buried under a ton of earth.
Aunt Liliana busied herself with the pots and pans on the stove, and Agnese took an extra set of cutlery and plates through to the dining table. I resigned myself to not getting any work done in the house that day, and started to relax and enjoy myself.
The food was exquisite, spaghetti Bolognese with a home-made sauce, followed by tender roast pork drizzled with the cooking juices, and sautéed courgettes that, I was informed, had been freshly picked that morning. There was never a lull in the conversation, everyone chatted easily together while they ate. I watched as they broke every rule I’d ever been taught in England: talking with their mouths full, using their knives to scrape up sauce and then lick them, breaking a chunk of bread off the loaf and wiping it around their plates, leaning on their elbows, laughing and joking. Aunt Liliana prided herself as a wonderful cook, and told me every detail of the preparation process, while I copied my cousins and broke off a piece of home-made bread to mop up the delicious pasta sauce left on the plate.
I mostly listened as they talked about their lives, jobs, and living in the mountains, secretly envious of their simple lifestyle and lack of concern about material things. It was like going fifty years back in the past, to an easier way of life. I wondered if that was the magic Mum had spoken about.
Ribbon Reviews for this title:
(These are similar to our Bookworm reviews, but they are
not submitted by our in-house reviewers. Each Ribbon Review corresponds to the matching color of our Bookworm reviews.)
There’s a little bit of magic in this book, and I don’t mean the kind with magic wands and spells. It’s enchanting and yet pulls on the threads of normal life. Family tragedies, a mysterious heritage and the strength to pull through the obstacles that life throws at us. Filled with colourful characters, the author Helen Pryke takes us on a tale of self-discovery and courage, and in doing so takes on tough topics. The book is beautifully presented, and I especially liked the little details such as the family tree and illustrations. Discovering Tuscany and Italian life, this is an emotional journey not to be missed.
Submitted by Sarah Northwood
I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves strong women climbing out of adversity, only to become stronger; those who believe in a little bit of magic; readers who enjoy a great family saga; lovers of big Italian family meals; and particularly for those who can climb into a comfy hammock or under a soft blanket, and get lost in a book for hours.