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:
- The two cars are going to be in a horrible crash.
- There’s nothing you can do to stop it.
- 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:
“The trick with her was not to make Joy too annoying; I wanted her to annoy her children, but not annoy the reader.”
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…
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…