Secrets of the Sea is a gorgeous new novel, set at the edge of the world in a small town in Tasmania, and focusing on the love- and life-story of two tormented people, Merridy and Alex Dove.
Alex is an orphan, both of his parents killed by a logging truck accident when he was only eleven. After being brought back to England by relatives for his school years, he returns as an adult to the tiny, fictitious town of Wellington Point on the coast of Tasmania, to sell the family farm. Despite knowing nothing about farming, Alex falls in love with the land and determines to make a go of it – repairing the farmhouse and outbuildings, learning to plant and harvest crops and investing in a good sized mob (Australian for “flock”) of sheep.
He’s just about to the point where he can break even when he meets Merridy, a beautiful but coolly-removed girl who is being chased by all the single fellows in Wellington Point. A civil engineering student in Melbourne, Merridy has dropped out of school to help her mother nurse her stroke-ridden father; Merridy’s father has basically come home to wither and die. This isn’t the only sorrow plaguing her family, however: years ago Merridy’s brother Hector, age seven, wandered off and disappeared forever. His body was never found; her mother has never been quite right since then; and Merridy has vowed to never love anyone because of the potential for hurt.
Alex is smitten with her and she likes his prepossession, his ability to work with his hands and his quiet hurt, which is so similar to her own. They marry -- even though she does not love him, trusting him when he says she will grow into it -- and settle into farm life, hoping for children. There are lambs and chicks and calves and puppies a-plenty, but no children for the Doves. It weighs heavily upon them, threatening to shatter the fragile life they have built with each other. When a vicious storm batters the harbor, wrecking a touring boat and casting ashore Kish, a troubled juvenile delinquent, Alex and Merridy’s lives do implode but the resulting devastation is just what these two wounded people need to truly heal with each other.