The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick: Funny, heartwarming and intensely human story - book review -

Patrick brings tears to our eyes, a smile to our lips, and puts a skip in our step with this warm and wonderful story of a gruff and grieving widower learning to love again.

The Secrets of Sunshine
The Secrets of Sunshine

If you’re desperate for a story of hope in our uncertain times then open the pages of Phaedra Patrick’s sparkling new novel and let the sun shine in!

Saddleworth author Patrick, an award-winning short story writer who made waves with her charming debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, brings tears to our eyes, a smile to our lips, and puts a skip in our step with this warm and wonderful story of a gruff and grieving widower learning to love again.

Set in the long, hot days of summer, The Secrets of Sunshine features a stellar cast of characters from lonely single dad Mitchell Fisher and his delightful young daughter Poppy to his down-to-earth, romance-hungry workmate Barry, and Poppy’s adorable music teacher Liza Bradfield.

Each plays a vital role in this funny, heartwarming and intensely human story which was inspired by the padlocks hung on bridges or railings in locations from Paris to Gran Canaria, bearing moving messages, initials and dates to signify love and loss.

Since the death of his partner Anita three years ago, Mitchell Fisher has regularly written letters to her which he knows he will never send. He had hoped they would assuage his constant grief and guilt but it’s not working, and he has still been unable to open a letter from Anita which she left for him shortly before she died.

Only his nine-year-old daughter Poppy knows that behind his prickly exterior, Mitchell is deeply lonely. He may have ditched any thought of romance, instead relishing his council job which includes cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to his home town’s famous ‘love story’ bridge… but underneath it all, he’s still mourning the loss of Poppy’s mum.

Then one hot summer’s day, everything changes when Mitchell bravely dives into the river to rescue a woman who fell from the bridge after she had attached a padlock to the railings. He is surprised to feel an unexpected ‘magnetic pull’ towards her, but she disappears before he can find out more about her.

Desperate to find the mysterious woman, Mitchell discovers that her name was Yvette and that she is the sister of Poppy’s loud, extrovert and friendly music teacher, Liza Bradfield. Despite his initial reservations, Mitchell teams up with Liza to see if Yvette, who has been missing for a year now, left behind any clues.

Mitchell, who is now being inundated with inspirational letters addressed to the ‘Hero on the Bridge,’ finds the first, important clue in Yvette’s secret message on the padlock she left on ‘love story’ bridge… but will the search take him to personal places he is still afraid to visit?

Patrick employs her signature charm, heart-soaring optimism, uplifting humour, and a wealth of insight to this enchanting story of a mixed-up, buttoned-up man’s journey to unlock his frozen heart and allow the warmth of a new love to melt his ‘armadillo’ shield.

The cathartic power of letter-writing – in every shape and form – is an intrinsic part of Mitchell’s painful road to recovery as we witness his all-too-familiar struggles with grief, guilt and despair after the death of his beloved Anita.

Once again, love, understanding and friendship prove to be the great healers and it is these resonant messages of hope, learning to let go, and the joy of new beginnings that make The Secrets of Sunshine such a perfect feelgood read.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)