You need to know by Nicola Moriarty
The publicity material that slid out of this book as I opened it described the author Nicola Moriarty as a wife and mother who, between looking after children and university study, has written successful fiction; and more than this, tells us that her two older sisters Liane and Jaclyn are also bestselling authors. Coincidentally this is a story about three siblings, all successful writers, and their family life. It seems that Nicola has grounded this domestic drama in her own experience of babies, children, partners, siblings and in-laws and perhaps also that of being an author in a family of writers.
This domestic drama is told from the perspectives of several members of the Lewis family. Mimi is married to the middle brother, illustrating his children’s books while coping with newborn twins, as well as two older children. Her teenage daughter is unaccountably moody and withdrawn. Mimi’s account of unfolding events is at the core of the story but there are other perspectives as well. Andrea is the wife of the eldest brother Tony, who has published a bestselling mystery. Andrea is concerned about the child in the neighbouring apartment and wonders about starting a family. Darren, the youngest brother, is struggling to write a second book to follow his first bestselling title, while facing an unusual request from his former wife. And Jill: as the mother of the three brothers /writers and matriarch of the family, she has organised for the family to drive in convoy to their country retreat for the Christmas gathering. Jill writes letters to her husband. Where is he? And what is contained in the mysterious email with the titular subject line that Jill does not want to read?
The story unfolds one perspective at a time, revealing each individual with their particular concerns and problems and each with a secret. Like all families, there are underlying tensions but a picture is built up of the whole family as connected and caring, seemingly good-hearted and reasonable middle-class people.
Interspersed with the daily events of family life in the days leading up to Christmas are flashes of the traffic accident that will happen as they drive out of the city to celebrate Christmas together. Tension builds towards this cataclysmic event. What has led to this accident? How does it happen? Who is involved? And what becomes of the individuals and of the family after the accident? While I wondered at the authorial manipulation which allowed so many of the characters’ problems to be neatly resolved by the end, the way in which the future well-being of the family was facilitated by another secret was a clever twist.
Readable and relatable, this novel offers food for thought on the nature of family bonds, honesty and communication. It was easy to identify with the sympathetically rendered characters and the issues they face and to see this family as like our own. But perhaps that is what makes the biggest secret, what “you need to know”, so much more shocking .
Reviewer: Clare Lyon