“I hold back my tears – an effort doomed to fail as I walk, head down, battling against the driving rain and my own emotions. How could this happen? How could I not have seen this happening? My life, my fiancé, my Jack. Have I really lost him?”
Kim Carter is in a situation usually reserved for clichéd romantic comedies. She’s just discovered her fiancé Jack in bed with her friend Kate a week before the wedding. Clichéd? Maybe. What’s not clichéd, however, is the mood of the moment. With a lack of guilt, remorse or even sympathy from the cheating pair, Kim is left feeling like the naïve intruder whose unannounced presence has ruined a romantic and cosy morning.
“I realised they were both waiting for me to say something as a look of impatience crossed her face. I didn’t know what to say, but I suddenly felt like an intruder in my own home, my own life. I didn’t belong there anymore.”
With nothing else to do but pour coffee over her designer rug and empty a bottle of bleach over Jack and Kate’s clothing, Kim leaves without looking back and without any kind of plan for her immediate or long term future. It is not long before she finds herself in a café and involved in an unprovoked mugging outside by the outdoor restrooms. Waking up in hospital she quickly discovers that an unsympathetic Jack has called her best friend Taylor to take care of her and has already moved all of Kim’s stuff out of their place. To add insult to injury Kim is also startled to learn that she has lost a baby she never knew she had.
You can be forgiven for thinking this is the introduction to a novel that wallows in self-pity or focuses on revenge and little else. While it does acknowledge and linger on these themes and emotions it is not what drives the story. Instead it takes a different path and follows Kim to London where she reconnects with her aunt Lizzie and slowly reinvents herself into Anna Washington; a strong, successful and beautiful young woman completely unrecognisable from the weak, predictable Kim she left behind:
“Kim is gone; Kim is back in Australia. She’s that plump over-worked social worker who didn’t notice her own fiancé was cheating on her. Kim is the girl who gets kicked around by life and doesn’t know how to fight back. No, I realise it is more than just my looks that have changed – it’s my core, my inner self, the essence of me is not the same anymore. Kim is dead, Anna is here, and Anna is a very different person.”
With a fast-paced and engaging narrative there is something relatable about Kim/Anna that will hook you in and keep you reading right until the last page is turned. With 267 pages and 24 chapters in total you will be quite capable of devouring Julia Fulford-Kirby’s insightful creation in one sitting.
What I really love about My Secret Self, aside from the narrative, is the way it leads you with the realisations and discoveries Anna makes along the way. Her Aunt Lizzie is also a character you will grow to appreciate. At first she seems extremely pushy and controlling but soon stands out as a guiding character with a lot of life experience and personality to offer:
“I am the only true family you have now, so darling, you will have to listen to me when I tell you that it’s time to pick yourself up, shake off the past and reinvent yourself. I personally have reinvented myself several times so far, and I highly recommend it.”
If you have ever felt lost or at a crossroads in life and need a little empowerment or comfort, My Secret Self might just be the book you need.
*Previously published by The Australia Times Books Magazine