Title: Return to Stringybark Creek (The Callahans of Stringybark Creek #3)
Author: Karly Lane
Published: December 2019
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Trigger warnings: Mentions of suicide, miscarriage
I received a copy of Return to Stringybark Creek from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
‘Karly Lane has a wonderful way of creating a sense of place – Stringybark Creek comes alive off the page… These are books I know I can fall into and be transported.’ – Noveltea Corner.
The Callahans of Stringybark Creek – Book 3
When Hadley Callahan returns to Stringybark Creek without her husband, Mitch Samuals, she plans to tell her parents one major piece of news while determinedly hiding another even more explosive secret.
For Oliver Dawson, the Callahans’ neighbour, Hadley’s celebrity wedding two years ago had killed any hopes he’d nurtured that one day they might end up together.
With Mitch putting pressure on Hadley and the secret she’s keeping causing her great anguish, Hadley’s developing feelings for Ollie take her by surprise. But with her life thrown into so much chaos at the moment, what future could they possibly have together?
Return to Stringybark Creek concludes the Callahan family trilogy with a delightfully irresistible story of loyalty, hope and the importance of staying true to yourself.
I can’t believe it’s taken my so long to write my review for this book, but believe me, it was a battle of wills not to read it immediately when I received my copy. Return to Stringybark Creek is the third and final book in the Callahans of Stringybark Creek series by Karly lane and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
Hadley, the youngest Callahan sibling, returns to her family home after the collapse of her marriage to public figure, Mitch Samuals (whom she married in book one). She’s unsure of how to break the news to her parents, especially given that the reason behind the break-out could cause all hell to break loose in the family. While home, she reconnects with childhood friend, Ollie, who’s harboured a crush on Hadley since they were kids and the two bond over a traumatic event that brings the small, country town together.
First up, let me say how much I adore all of the characters in this series – and everyone from the previous two books makes an appearance throughout book three, and each time it’s a treat. While this is most definitely Hadley and Ollie’s book, every book is about the Callahans and their friends and from the very first page it’s like coming home to family. I know and love all these characters and I’m invested in their storylines and their (hopefully) happily ever afters.
My heart broke for Hadley in this story – she’s dealing with a lot and having to shoulder the burden of trying to keep her family together and manage her career at the same time. She’s come home for solace, but she can’t let her guard down at home because she’s worried about how her parents will react to all the news she has to share. Hadley is smart, intelligent and driven and in this book we see her struggle with what she wants and what’s the best thing for her to do for herself, and that’s so incredibly relatable as a woman in the current day.
Then there’s Ollie, the boy next door who’s taken over the family farm, dealing with the pressures that comes from being a farmer in the modern day – and crushing on a woman who he’s loved for years but never pursued because he didn’t want to hold her back from her dreams. He’s such a wonderful, well-thought out character that leaps off the page.
Lane has added an additional depth to this story, with a subplot following the suicide of a friend of Ollie’s that highlights the plight of Australian farmers and farming communities who are under strain. The devastation that this death has on Ollie and Hadley is what draws them back together as they both work to make people aware of how tough it is to work in the farming industry and the pressures that farmers face. As someone who has family connections to the farming community, this struck a chord, and I’m grateful for the calm and considered way Lane has approached the topic both in the context of the story and in her author’s notes at the end.
The Callahans have become a favourite book family of mine over the last three books and I’m sad that there are no more books to come for them. But, that said, Lane has done something wonderful with their story arcs – we’ve grown to love a family of individuals as unique and different as anyone we’d meet in our daily lives. They’re flawed, but compassionate and kind and they pull together when they need to. They define family and friendship and it’s been a real pleasure to read their stories.