Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Former tennis coaches Joy and Stan Delaney are the envy of many. They are one of those couples who are affectionate with each other in public. After years of raising a family of four children and running their own successful tennis coaching business, they have now retired and have all the time in the world to enjoy the next stage of their lives.
But then Joy Delaney disappears. It seems she has just cycled off into the sunset (without her helmet!) never to be seen again. She sent her children a text message to say she was going OFF GRID, but the rest of the text message made no sense to them. And as the days go by, her children begin to re-examine their parent's marriage and family history with new and frightened eyes. The police are called in to investigate, and the four adult children are divided and conflicted when they start to consider that their father may have murdered their mother.
But does Joy's disappearance relate to the strange houseguest, Savannah, who showed up at the Delaney home one night the previous year? A stranger with a story of abuse, Joy and Stan, took her into their home. But, when she didn't leave straight away, Joy's children became increasingly worried – and as the police continue their investigation, it seems the family isn't telling them all they know about this mysterious guest.
While the mystery of Joy's disappearance is the overriding question in this book, there are so many other questions as we get to find out about her children. There is successful broker Troy, who repeatedly sabotages the good things in his life. There is laid-back Logan, who is so laid-back, he didn't fight to keep his girlfriend, even though he loved her very much. Then there is Brooke, who suffers debilitating migraines and is wrapped up in knots trying to run a business after her husband left her. And there is the oldest daughter Amy, always the flaky free spirit, never sticking to one thing. There are also many questions about Savannah, the house guest.
Liane Moriarty is a hugely successful writer who has sold more than twenty million copies. I have loved all her books, but I think this is her best yet. I couldn't put the book down. It was such a mystery and such a gentle unveiling of this family's lives; it really was unputdownable. Apples Never Fall is brilliantly structured, moving back and forth in time from the police investigation to the previous year's events until everything dramatically collides. It switches viewpoints too, and it's so effective seeing the family from different viewpoints and the book being written from Joy's own perspective in places. If that makes it sound complicated – it's not – this is a seamless read that ramps up the tension as the story flows. These are well-drawn characters and relationships, written with gentle wit and nuance that make you feel like you know this ordinary but extraordinary family. Apples Never Fall is a first-class read from an assured writer.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan