"Apples Never Fall" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
You’ve got to love Liane Moriarty, known for bestsellers like “Big Little Lies,” made into a Netflix series, and “Nine Perfect Strangers” recently released on Netflix. Moriarty has a knack for creating eccentric characters caught up in dramatic circumstances, mysteries that are a bit wacky and wonky, yet are addictive.
She delivers again with “Apples Never Fall” a book that gets inside the heads of the tennis crazed Delaney family, Aussies from Sydney. We’re introduced to Hugh and Joy Delaney when their children are grown, the four young adults trying to decipher what’s happened to their mother.
Joy disappeared and their father is suspect in her murder, though a body hasn’t been found. In flashbacks the stories of the parents and their children Amy, Logan, Troy and Brooke are revealed, skilled tennis stars in their youth who showed great promise, their dreams dashed when their father shifts from coaching them at the tennis academy he and Joy own, to taking on a young player with great potential.
Amy, Logan, Troy and Brooke don’t believe their father harmed their mother, though they know their parents haven’t always gotten along, their father disappearing after disagreements, once even stopping the car on the interstate to flee, leaving Joy and her children in shock. Hugh has skeletons in his closet but could he have killed his wife? The Delaney offspring don’t think so.
The siblings believe it’s more likely their mom’s disappearance has something to do with Samantha, a young woman who turned up at Hugh and Joy’s door one evening, bloodied and traumatized, accusing her boyfriend of abusing her. With nowhere to go, they take her in. Soon Joy becomes Samantha’s substitute mother, the waifish young woman filling a hole in Joy’s heart, her children involved in their own lives and varied sticky-wicket situations.
Moriarty deftly moves the plot forward and back, focusing on the investigation, and the family’s dysfunctional history as Hugh and Joy juggle tennis academy responsibilities with maintaining their marriage and raising their children.
“Apples Never Fall” is gripping, yet simultaneously comical, Moriarty seems to write with tongue in cheek, never taking herself too seriously, which makes this mystery, with its unforeseen conclusion, far from depressing or dark, yet entertaining, clever and at times relatable.