Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty: A review
Apples Never Fall gives us the Delaney family, Stan and Joy Delaney and their four grown children: Amy, the oldest and artsy one; Troy, a highflying businessman very proud of his wealth and losing no opportunity to flaunt it; Brooke, the youngest, a businesswoman who has not had much success in the romance department; and Logan, the disheveled teacher with a heart of gold. This is, in fact, a family saga that turns into a mystery and a bit of a thriller before the end.
Moriarty is very adept at giving us an in-depth portrait of each of these family members. That, I felt, was one of the book's strengths and something that I really liked about it. She describes each of their backstories of experiences along with their struggles and mistakes along the way. In spite of their weaknesses and mistakes, the reader gains a real empathy for each of them. One feels that one knows them. They might be our neighbors. They might even be our family.
The Delaneys are famous in the tennis world. Both Joy and Stan are former Australian tennis stars and after their playing career ended, they started a tennis academy where they instructed young players, including their own children, for years. They had hopes that one or more of their children might someday play at Wimbledon, but they were disappointed in that. Although talented, none of them had sufficient talent or desire to be such a star.
Their real prodigy was Harry Haddad who went on to become a Grand Slam champion. As a student at the academy, he was a rival of the younger Delaneys, both as a player and for their father's affection. But Harry eventually broke Stan's heart. At seventeen, he left Harry as a coach and signed on with someone else. It was that coach who got him all the way to the Grand Slam.
Now it is several years later and Harry had retired from tennis, but he's decided to try for a comeback and he is about to release his memoir. Meanwhile, Joy and Stan are retired after selling their tennis academy. Joy will soon turn seventy, and Stan is already in his seventies. They are both a bit bored and at loose ends since retirement. Then something happens to change all that. A young woman turns up on their doorstep.
Her name (she says) is Savannah and she's supposedly running from an abusive boyfriend and she does have some physical injuries to support her story. Open-hearted Joy takes her in, gives her one of her children's old rooms, and she becomes a guest of the family. This guest though certainly earns her way. It seems she is an excellent cook and soon Joy and Stan are eating better than ever before.
Of course, this idyllic situation doesn't last. The Delaneys learn something about Savannah's background that makes them suspicious of her. Stan and Joy have a serious argument and shortly afterward, Joy disappears. Has Stan done away with her? That seems to be the consensus opinion. Or has Savannah done away with her? Were Savannah and Stan having an affair?
There are no apparent clues and as the disappearance lengthens into weeks, everyone fears the worst. Red herrings abound. Still, no body has been found. Even so, the two detectives investigating the case prepare to arrest Stan for murder. Moriarty builds the suspense layer upon layer until we are sure that some truly horrible fate has befallen Joy. And then we learn... But, no, you'll have to read the book to find out!
I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last. I particularly liked the character of Joy and found it easy to identify with her. And the lessons of the book seem to be that, yes, we all make mistakes, and sometimes we betray those we love, either intentionally or unintentionally. Love is not always easy but it is built on upon our willingness to accept mistakes and to forgive. To forgive others and to forgive ourselves. That's not a bad thing for a novel to demonstrate.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars