Book Reviews

Book Reviews – No. 14: the perfect family, by Robyn Harding

The Adler family couldn’t be dysfunctional without each other.

Book Reviews – No. 14: the perfect family, by Robyn Harding

What’s your favourite kind of ending for a novel?

Do you want the plot resolved by the afterward, with all of the threads tied up in a neat little bow, or do you want to be sinking deep into your pillows at 3 a.m. after reading the book’s last few pages, scratching your head in a kind of delicious confusion as you try to figure out who the real perpetrator is?

If it is this latter kind of ending that you revel in dear readers, then Robyn Harding, a #1 National bestselling author, is the writer for you – a domestic thriller thought-provoking storyteller guaranteed to enthrall with every one one of her many books.

In fact, it was Harding’s 2020 book, the swap that motivated me to source her contact deets mere minutes after I’d closed that book. (Quick aside: the main character, Low, in the swap, is actually one of the characters with whom Robyn Harding has a special affinity. Highly recommend the read).

But I digress.

Reading Robyn’s new book, the perfect family, on sale August 10th, provides the reader with an experience that is akin to watching a sheet of veneer crack under the onslaught of a sledgehammer at high noon. In the prologue, before readers even delve into chapter one, we meet the acquaintance of an unidentified narrator who tells us that the people who live in the beautiful but silent house only look perfect.

“They had done horrible things. They kept horrible secrets. People like that made me sick. Fakes. Phonies. Pretending they were better than everyone else, when they were rotten inside. Now, they were stressed, panic, falling apart. The thought made me smile.”

As the prologue ends, this silent narrator informs us that, “The world would be a better place without people like the Adlers. I lit the match. And let it drop.” (Pages x-xi).

And from there, we are introduced to the Adler family, one by one. Vivian, (Viv), Adler has been married to her husband Thomas for twenty-five years. What we find out about Viv immediately is that she is searching to embrace a grateful heart, which is kind of hard to do when you suspect your husband is cheating on you. This, of course, is only the first layer on Viv’s three-tiered cake of worries.

Thomas, (Tom never Tommy), is a real estate agent who feels betrayed by his colleagues, people he used to consider friends until one very bad night when something unspeakable – one worthy of blackmail in fact- happens on a boys’ golf getaway which was being held to celebrate a forty-six-year-old colleague’s third marriage.

“Never, in a million years, could I have predicted what would happen on that trip. I should have stayed home,” Thomas opines.

Eli, Viv and Tom’s son, who was always a gentle anxious boy, is home from his first year at college. No one in the family is quite sure what went on there, but Eli is now so withdrawn that his sparse words appear to be locked up in a word depository to which he has no personal access. 

“Get your lazy ass out of bed, [Eli] you entitled millennial. Go get a job flipping burgers, then tell me why you want to throw away your parent-funded, top-tier education,” Tom fumes to himself.

Things are so weird with Eli that mom and pop Adler think that the recent and shockingly escalating acts of violence on the Adler home is a result of some beef between Eli and some of his former friends. Out of nowhere, the Adler’s perfect and beautiful home is egged, rocks are thrown through windows, and then, and then, and then….

But wait, there is still one more Adler we have to meet, Viv and Tom’s daughter, Tarryn.
(Call me Tarry at your peril).  

How best to describe Tarryn? Well, let’s just say Robyn got a splice of inspiration for the Tarryn character from an article she read on sugar babies. (Young girls who date older men for cash). Cue the in-home basement Webcam, blacked-out windows, wigs, sex props and false identities and you get a hint of Tarryn and what she is up to.

The interesting thing about this household of dysfunctional family members- they couldn’t be dysfunctional without each other- is that no one individual knows what the other one is doing- each of their secrets are bound and tied like prisoners on ships sailing to Australia in the 1800s.

The saga of the perfect family grows, evolves, and implodes in a complex and multi-layered way, but also includes layers of breadcrumb clues that made me feel, as I turned onto the last page, that I had Robyn Harding’s domestic thriller all figured out.

That is, until I read the last sentence.

Let me put it this way. The shenanigans of the perfect family could provide enough fodder for Dr. Phil to keep him busy for years and years to come.

Read my Author profile on Robyn Harding and make sure to pick up your copy of the perfect family.

Trust me dear readers, you will feel much –much– better about your own little not-so-perfect-family.

Cece is the feature cover writer for several prestigious publications and is an informed, connected and enthusiastic book blogger at  Her first book, The Love Story, was published in 2019. Her second book will be coming out in the spring of 2021.

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Cece is also working on a book of Daily Reflections for Auto Immune Condition Warriors.

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