This whole story centres on guilt, confession, and atonement. St Angela's School is the centrepiece for the characters in this story. So already you see that this is not ordinary guilt etc but very Catholic guilt, confession, and atonement. The main characters either all went to the school as children themselves, and/or now have children/grandchildren going to the school.
The unsolved murder of a teenage girl some 15 years earlier continues to haunt her mother Rachel who works in the office of the school. She is convinced that a teacher at the school who was then a teenage boy and friend of her daughter is somehow responsible. We also have Tess, who has left Melbourne with her young son, deep in betrayal following her husband and cousin/best friend declaring their undying love for each other. And we have Cecilia immersed in her perfect life, perfect marriage to John-Paul, perfect children as well as being the Queen Bee of the school mums, plus a successful Tupperware distributor. You get the picture.
The story takes place over the few days of the Easter period - how coincidental I hear you say - death, rebirth, and so on. Ripe for sin confession, guilt, Catholic doctrine filtering through, secrets to be revealed. And despite my slightly subversive and cynical tone, this is a great story. I found the characters believable, relatable. The very suburban family oriented physical setting is instantly recognisable, as are the characters themselves. There is a touch of Jodi Picoult with the envelope plot device - the moral and ethical repercussions of opening the envelope, then dealing with what the contents are. My only criticism is at how the climax of the story takes place, and it is not the opening of the envelope. I found this part of the story horrifically unnecessary, quite out of place and far too dramatic. For those who believe in some sort of divine retribution, this may be quite an acceptable and likely outcome, but for me, immersed in the ordinary day to day life of the characters, I thought it pushed the boundaries too much. Good read though.