Noone writes family dynamics quite like Liane Moriarty! In APPLES NEVER FALL, she takes us right into the heart of the Delaney family, whose life has always revolved around tennis. When the mother, Joy, disappears and her husband Stan falls under suspicion of having harmed her, her four adult children look back on their childhood and their parents’ marriage to see what they could have missed.
I loved the way Moriarty slowly uncovers the family’s inner workings, their secrets, their regrets, their loyalties and rivalries. Whilst we mostly hear from the family members themselves, we also get snapshots of the siblings’ conversations and other moments observed by strangers and neighbours, which was an unusual and clever way of telling the story and deepening the mystery of Joy’s disappearance whilst also adding a unique angle. And who was the mysterious guest who had been staying with the Delaney’s? I was like the donkey following the carrot – always a step behind but so eager to get the answers!
As with Moriarty’s other books, APPLES NEVER FALL is a slow burning, character driven mystery that focuses more on interpersonal dynamics and relationships than the actual mystery itself. The thing I love most about Moriarty’s books is the way she lets us see deep inside her characters’ heads and explore the deepest darkest corners of their psyche. This gives each character a depth often missed in other novels - noone is black and white here but complex personalities with a history that has shaped them. I particularly loved the way all four siblings remember the same events slightly differently, and the way those occasions affected each and every one of them and directed their future lives to some degree. Families are complex, and Moriarty has nailed it! As the story progressed, I felt that I knew each of the characters intimately, with the exception of Stan, who remained an enigma to the very end – with good reason. This was a long, thick book and yet I mourned the loss of each character as I closed that last page.
If I had any gripes, I thought that the last chapters could have been cut out to leave it at the solution to the central mystery without that final “twist” and the inclusion of covid, both of which added little to the story for me and somehow didn’t quite fit the rest of the tale (just made the book longer). However, the rest of the book was still a solid 5 star read, one I enjoyed immensely and which touched my heart.
In summary, APPLES NEVER FALL was the type of unputdownable character driven story I have come to expect from Liane Moriarty, and I enjoyed every stolen moment I could spare between work and chores to escape into it. Focusing on family dynamics, it contained everything I love in her books: strong enigmatic characters, a quintessentially Australian setting, a compelling mystery and that subtle tongue-in-cheek Aussie humour that always gets lost when someone decides to turn her books into a TV series. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it kept me glued to its almost 500 pages right until the end.