By Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.82
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Format Read: Audiobook
Trigger Warnings: Mental health stigmatized by family, domestic abuse, infidelity, eating disorders, child abuse
Goodreads summary: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty comes a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest
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.
Apples Never Fall is the story of a tennis family reeling in the aftermath of their mother going missing. The family, made up of four adult children, the mother and the father, are forced to decide whether to report their mother missing, and whether their father was involved in her disappearance. Complicating matters is the fact that a year before, a mysterious guest named Savannah arrived on the parent’s doorstep and stayed with them for some time.
The mystery of this book, which played out in two parts, was solidly done. The first mystery, that of Savannah, was my personal favorite. It’s difficult to elaborate too much here without spoiling it, but I thought that the slow reveal of who she was and what she meant to the family was engaging and well spaced out throughout the narrative. The other mystery, What Happened To Joy, was equally engaging in that it allowed a lot of room for characterization of the 4 Delaney siblings. The “reveal” was perhaps not my favorite to ever occur, but I think that portion of the story was more a vehicle for the first portion than anything else.
The book alternates narrators between all four of the Delaney children, and provided adequate time to truly get to know each of them. My favorite part of this book was engaging in the eccentricities of each of them; without that, the book would not have been as engaging.
This book would have gotten a solid 4 stars, perhaps even a 4.5, if it wasn’t for the way that mental health was handled in the book. I’ve been fairly outspoken about enjoying books with mentally ill protagonists recently, but for some reason the descriptions of mental health didn’t resonate in the same way here. Amy experiences waves of bad mental health (described as maybe anxiety, maybe bipolar disorder, maybe something else by a string of unhelpful therapists) that cause her family to treat her like she is a wallflower. I think there are ways to do this that are incredibly powerful, but the description of Amy’s mental health during her narrator chapters were equally stigmatized and not fully fleshed out. It felt like Moriarty was looking in from the outside and never fully wrapped her head around how Amy would truly feel. I don’t need Amy to react the same way that I would to her mental health disorder, but I did want her reaction to feel genuine, and it never fully did.
Savannah, who is in many ways the book’s antagonist, is also characterized to have mental health disorders, which I will not fully elaborate on here due to spoilers. I felt that she was alternatingly pitied and villainized for her mental illness in a way that I would have liked to see called out by the narrative in some way. Similarly, there was commentary about not expecting a victim of domestic abuse to come from a wealthy area, and caring more about a victim who came from this area. While I think that was an accurate reaction for that specific character, the way the rest of the book handled Savannah’s domestic abuse, I felt, did not properly address that this way of thinking was incorrect.
Overall the struggles which the women were going through in this book seemed to be trivialized and blamed on their mental health without doing much work to unpack that, and for me that was incredibly frustrating.
I would not recommend the audiobook version of this book simply because it was an Australian narrator, and I found certain ways which she emphasized words to be distracting or confusing which forced me to rewind. Obviously if you are Australian or have more experience listening to Australian accents, you’ll probably enjoy the audiobook more!
I’ve read a ton of Liane Moriarty books, and I’m always impressed by how she manages to refresh her premise and characters, never falling into the repetitive trap that I some of my other favorite authors often do. If you’ve enjoyed her other books, you will most certainly enjoy this one, and it will be well worth the read.