Thursday, October 14, 2021

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall
by Liane Moriarty
Published September 2021 by Holt, Henry and Company, Inc.
480 pages
Source: check out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

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.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, 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 famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, 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 in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

My Thoughts:
Publisher's Weekly calls this book a psychological thriller and I suppose it is. Which actually comes as something of a surprise to me, even though Moriarty keeps readers in suspense as to what happened to Joy Delaney. Even though she gradually reveals truths about the Delaneys and their home that begin to point to nefarious activity and an obvious suspect. 

Having read Moriarty before, though, I just knew that the obvious suspect wasn't the suspect, even as an arrest was about to be made. Because having read Moriarty before, I've come to see a pattern in her books and (I suppose this is true of any even remotely decent thriller) the obvious suspect won't be guilty but the guilty party will definitely be someone who's been around all along. Moriarty will skewer suburban life. Check. She'll load her book with gossip as a means of delivering the truth. Check. She'll give us perfectly ordinary families who aren't so perfect after all. Check. All of those elements are in this book. 

This book as an extra element - that stranger who shows up on the Delaneys' doorstep and, in so doing, begins to unravel the truths about the Delaneys and their relationships. 

Those truths? Those I really enjoyed, the way small cracks began to appear in the facade of a happy family. The way parental expectations can both shape and undo a child. The way those same expectations can undo a marriage. I enjoyed seeing these sibling struggle with how to or whether to support a father who they believe has, maybe, killed their mother. 

But that stranger? I have very mixed feelings about that stranger and how she came to ensconce herself in Stan's and Joy's home and their lives. Moriarty's written nine books now and been successful enough that I can't help but wonder if she's not allowed more leniency with the final product than a newer writer might be given. Would an editor advised a less successful writer to cut back on the stranger's story? It's just a little...too much. 

Still, I raced through this book once I got into it. There were plenty of surprises, I liked the way Moriarty used neighbors and friends and the people who provide services for the Delaneys to drop snippets of gossip; but are those snippets the truth or merely a sliver of the full picture? And as much as I thought there was too much of that stranger, I did like that she was multi-dimensional. Oh yeah, the tennis; I liked the tennis. Even though I'm not a tennis player or a particular fan of the sport I liked the way Moriarty used it to develop her characters and her story. 

Fan of Moriarty's won't be disappointed. I wasn't. I just think it could have been just that much better. 

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