Years ago, I wrote on the office whiteboard “Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is going to be huge.” And it was. Now comes Apples Never Fall, another exceptional addition to the Moriarty canon, an enthralling novel of thought-provoking misdirection, a blueprint of interior family life, a drama so emotionally complex that I thought it was either a memoir, or years of studying suburban families.
In this case it’s the Delaney family with their tennis fixation, the obsessive training and competition of tennis, and its aftermath soaking into decades of their family relationships.
I followed the sudden arrival of stranger Savannah Pagonis, a cooking wiz, into the unsuspecting Delaney household, and discovered how Joy and Stan Delaney handle this peculiar arrangement while coping with retirement and the dysfunctional lives of four Delaney children now adults.
When matriarch Joy mysteriously disappears, the overarching plot hinges on “Joy, dead or alive?” and is set in present time with flashbacks. Husband Stan and deceptive Savannah are under suspicion, and here clues are planted, the trail of breadcrumbs laid for the observant reader.
Sprinkled throughout the story are friends, neighbours and comic relief from police duo DC Christina Khoury and PC Ethan Lim who struggle with their missing person investigation.
In the case of Savannah and the Delaney siblings Amy, Troy, Logan and Brooke, as youngsters they never seemed to trot off to school. Perhaps an alert teacher could have helped. However, I am sure readers will recognise their fraternal traits as grown-ups. Character-wise I think son Logan is great, followed by unfathomable dad Stan.
Seventy-one domestic drama chapters unfold in all their glory; chapter 52 is cataclysmic, chapter 53 almost poetry. At times the plot framework showed, the screenwriting element intruded, and I did not particularly like the odd use of “Troy’s father” or “Amy’s mother” instead of their names but these are minor points; the dialogue pulsates and glows.
Liane Moriarty writes breathtaking dialogue and suspenseful moments leaving no stone unturned on this rocky domestic landscape.“Apples Never Fall”
The sense of place is strong and even though there is a lot going on, Moriarty has written an intimate narrative of social and relationship enlightenment which got me recalling my own younger life, the missed cues and insights the older me now recognises.
As the innermost workings of the Delaney family are laid bare, Moriarty’s writing transcends game, set and match, particularly relating to Joy and motherhood. Wow, I could read out pages of Joy and defy any woman to say she hasn’t felt the same at some point in her life.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Rating “Apples Never Fall”