If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father? This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.
Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are they so miserable?
One night a stranger knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, and they are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. But what does she really want?
Then, Joy goes missing and, for someone who claims to be innocent, Stan seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other, everyone will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.Amazon
Why THIS Book?
I had not planned on reviewing another Liane Moriarty book this year. (Here is the book review I did earlier this year.) I happened to be in a bookstore on my daughter’s birthday and discovered that she -Liane Moriarty, not my daughter- had a new book out. Of course, I figured I would wait for it in paperback even though it was going to be so hard to wait…. And then a few days later it was on the “New and Now” shelf at my local library so I was able to snag it! Yay me!
I love the balance Moriarty has of high family drama and some really fucked up human behavior with such sweetness. Once again, Moriarty does not disappoint. Her books seem to be always in Australia, always about interpersonal family dynamics (specifically marriage and parent/child) and there is always darkness lurking but her books still provide an ending that is satisfying and clever.
Moriarty’s books tend to be quite long. And yet. Due in part to a writing style that is easy, witty, and feels honest to the point of almost being too much, and plots that move along with no misplaced tangents, they never FEEL as long as they are. Especially because usually the last 10% is very action-packed as all the loose threads are gathered up and the camera starts to pan out so you can see the amazing bit of storytelling and connections that you have been enjoying. Everything always fits together so well at the end…. Even if the final few pages can surprise you! This book did have one departure from her normal style in terms of POV but I will talk more about that in a moment.
What I really liked about this book is that from the get-go we are faced with a very specific plot/story/mystery but that is not really what the book is about. The little foibles that arise due to that main plot, the background stories, and the movement from one timeline to another while switching POV between the characters and the community (more on that in a sec) all combine to tell a variety of connected stories that both inform and are affected by the main mystery. This is life. It is never simple A to B to C… we have to understand the why behind A so that we truly understand the why of B and then we realize that there were a few other things, invisible to A and B that actually made C possible as well. Moriarty shines when doing this sort of overlapping storylines.
I have heard that some people think Moriarty ties everything up too cleanly… and while I don’t agree, I will say that this book in particular ties things up just enough that it feels like a natural stopping point but there are definitely more stories to be told and endings we are not privy to…. And I love that because it feels like these characters are really out there still living their lives, but that the curtains have just been closed and we can no longer watch them.
Another note re the Plot. It is 2021 and the pandemic is a very real thing that affected people in very real easy. I LOVE that this book not only acknowledges that COVID/the shutdowns/social distancing/quarantining happened but actually works them into the story (not as huge plot points, but still relevant and important). Current events are not shoehorned in, but they are also not ignored which makes this book so much more authentic. I know authors are going to be struggling with if/how to mention the pandemic for years to come and I think the way Moriarty placed it in her story was perfect.
Like all Moriarty books, there are a lot of characters. Thankfully, she does a bang-up job of making them unique and giving each one their own believable bits of personality and motivations. Once you get used to 6 main characters and a few side characters, you don’t really ever have trouble telling them apart. It is a true testament to her skill that Moriarty can make even side characters multidimensional.
A new thing in this book is that parts of the story are told from the point of view of nameless side characters who interact or observe the main characters. As the reader, we know the context of the main plot and can figure out what is going on… but these poor side characters are only getting bits and pieces of the story (an overheard phone call, a conversation at a restaurant etc) and this lends something to the book. First off, it makes it a bit voyeuristic which is not an accident and actually relates to the “twist” at the end. Secondly, it reminds us, the readers, that we all have the potential to be the side characters in someone else’s story even if we are the main characters in our own. This also relates to the end “twist” and is a bit of a moral that Moriarty is slipping to us wrapped in the guise of a fun “chick lit” book. All stories have value and you cannot know someone’s story/life/situation based off o a single interaction. There is also a bit here about paying attention to what is really going on and maybe trying to think about the needs of others outside of your own needs. Had Person ABCD noticed Instance X….. things would have been very very different (and happier/healthier). What a great reminder in the time of COVID and masks to really value human interaction and to take the time to pay attention to the people around us.
Shocker, I know, but I really loved this book. It kept me engaged as the onion layers continued to be peeled. I could see bits of myself in almost every character and I found myself going back and forth about what the answer to the big mystery was. This book made me feel happy, sad, worried, creeped out, vindicated, and hopeful. I mean… can it get better than that?
Would I recommend it?
Again, I have enjoyed every single Liane Moriarty book I have read… It is NOT speculative fiction so it is more approachable for “the masses.” I called it Chick-lit earlier but… eh… only as far as there are more women characters than men, the central issues deal with parenting and marriage with the main character being a woman…. But honestly, I feel like you don’t have to be a woman to read and enjoy this book. Anyone who has dealt with marital strife, parental expectations, sibling rivalry, or self-doubt/aging/trying to find your place in the world…. I feel like there is something here for almost everyone.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?