The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is a charming, nostalgic and heartwarming story for women of any age – and it all begins when 79-year-old Shirley kidnaps her husband from his nursing home for one final adventure . . .
‘Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a small smirk.’
When Shirley Sullivan signs her 83-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge Nursing Home, she has no intention of bringing him back.
For fifty-seven years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. And while Frank may not know who his wife is these days, 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. They embark on a road trip – in a Kombi, which just makes this all the more fabulous – heading down the south coast of NSW. Along the way they visit places of meaning to Frank, with Shirley hoping that she’ll be able to bring back the man she loves, even for a moment. And, in doing so, perhaps she can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret . . .
This utterly charming novel was a delightful reprieve from the world. Told in duel timelines, both the present day and the couple throughout their time together, the story is filled with both heart and humour. I cried and laughed, unable to put it down. Lisa Ireland has really come into her own as a wonderful storyteller and I believe this book will truly grow her already loyal fanbase.
In a Q&A she sent us, Lisa explained where the idea for the book came from. “I came across an article about an elderly couple who had escaped from their nursing home and gone on the run. They evaded authorities for days – even slipping out of police custody at one point! I was captivated by this story and I knew I wanted to write about these gutsy octogenarians one day. The idea percolated away at the back of my mind for years.”
I love that she was inspired by some ‘gutsy octogenarians’ and that’s exactly what she’s created here. Shirley is a fabulous character. She’s not a cliché old lady – she is complex and compelling. She is exactly the women of that age who I know. This is not an old people’s story, it’s a celebration of life and love and aging. There are some tough moments, but Lisa covers those, and specifically Alzheimer’s Disease with a deft hand and a lot of heart.
Curl up with The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan this weekend and take a trip away with one of the coolest characters I’ve read in a while. A wonderful read.