Book Review:  There’s No “Fun” In This Much Dysfunction

Publication date:  September 2021

Category:  Domestic thrillers

Review, short version:  I usually limit myself to four skunks, but for this I made an exception.

Review, long version:

Imagine you’re standing on a corner at a busy intersection, waiting for the light to change.

You see a car entering the intersection, doing the speed limit.  The driver has the green light.

Then you see a car in the cross street, approaching the intersection at a high rate of speed, and a red light the driver isn’t slowing down for.

In that split second you know three things:

  1. The two cars are going to be in a horrible crash.
  2. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.
  3. You can’t look away.

The cars do; there wasn’t; and you didn’t.

This is how I felt – over and over again – throughout the 464 dreadful pages of Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall.

The horrible crashes kept happening and, for reasons I haven’t figured out, I couldn’t look away.

The lead characters are the six Delaney family members:  parents Stan and Joy, and four adult children ages 29 to 39.

This family is so dysfunctional, they make my family look like a walk in the park – and believe me, my family was and is dysfunctional.

Into this mix comes an interloper named Savannah.  She presents herself as a stranger, but it will turn out that she has a long-ago connection to the Delaney family.

A – no surprise here – completely dysfunctional connection.

Savannah, we’ll learn, is a psychopath:

All the characters are so depressing to be around, I don’t understand why I spent all that time with them.  I’m beating myself up for the precious time I wasted reading Apples, when I could have been doing something worthwhile.

Like changing the stale air in my car tires.

And I don’t understand why Moriarty would want to create such depressing characters – so I went online and read some of the numerous interviews she did when Apples came out.

In this one, for example:

Moriarty said,

“The trick with her was not to make Joy too annoying; I wanted her to annoy her children, but not annoy the reader.”

Really?

Joy annoyed me a lot, all the way through the book.

Here’s a sample of Joy speaking, after she’s met Savannah (page 24):

“Savannah.  That’s a pretty name,” said Joy.  “I have a friend called Hannah.  Quite similar!  Well, not that similar.  Savannah.  Where do I know that name from?  I know, I think Princess Anne has a granddaughter called Savannah.  She’s a cute little girl, a bit wicked!  I don’t think she’s Princess Savannah.  I don’t think she has a title at all.  Not that you’d be interested in that.  I’ve just always had a special interest in the royal family.  I follow them on Instagram.”

Why, oh why, did I stay with this book?

Then there was this interview, in the Sydney Morning Herald (Moriarty is a native Australian):

The author references the “dark humor” in Moriarty’s writing, and yes – that final, sickening, drawn-out scene, where Savannah sets her mother up to die a long, slow, painful death?

That was a side-splitter, for sure.

I never did find an answer to, Why did Moriarty create such unlikable characters?

I do understand that a story without drama isn’t a story, and dysfunction is a sure-fire way to create drama. 

But this dysfunctional?  Characters this unlikable?   This…this…

Well.

After reading and liking her first seven books, I disliked Moriarity’s eighth, Nine Perfect Strangers, and said so – emphatically – in a post, including referring to it as a “super stinker.”

Perhaps someday I’ll figure out why I stayed with Apples, but in the meantime…

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