Book Reviews

Book Review No 18: Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Truly an exercise in trying as hard as you can to figure out who did it.

I have run into a swath of books these past couple of weeks that are, in book addicts’ parlay, deemed Un-put-down-able.

I know, I know – Poor me.

Of course within that hierarchy of eye-popping turn-the-page, read at a hundred miles an hour un-put-down-ables, there are a few that rise to the top, like cream in your coffee or sprinkled icing on the cake.

But I digress.

Not A Happy Family, by international bestselling Toronto author, Shari Lapena, (her 2016 book, The Couple Next Door, was also a smash hit), is truly an exercise in trying as hard as you can to figure out who did it, and then coming up short on the guess. In fact one reviewer said, “trying to put the book down is futile.”

I concur.  Without a word of a lie, I was 80 or so pages out from finishing the book and after getting up to grab a drink at 5 a.m. I fluffed up my pillows and abandoned my sleep in favour of finishing Lapena’s book.

That. Is. How. Good. It. Is.


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Lapena’s novel is an exciting complex journey that mires us in the dysfunctional goings-on of the smashingly wealthy Merton family – father Fred- who drives a Porsche 911 convertible in the summer and a Lexus in the winter is famously vindictive and nasty. Mother Sheila – and I do use the term ‘mother’ loosely – toots around town in her Mercedes whose interior is swathed in white leather. Their three – how should I say this- greedy and dysfunctional adult children- possess secrets more plentiful and concealed than the proverbial hard-boiled coloured eggs on an Easter Sunday morning.

Meet Catherine, the oldest child and the recognized favourite, Dan – the object of Fred’s bullying – and Jenna – the “wild child” whose life is somewhat of a mystery.

Several hours after the unsettling and not-very-nice Merton family Easter dinner, Fred and Sheila are found murdered in their home. Immediately the suspicions around who ‘might’ have done it thicken faster than the flies around poor Fred’s countlessly stabbed corpse.

All three siblings stand to inherit millions and all three have their reasons as to why they need the money.

Catherine, “the high-functioning’ one, has pined for her parents upscale Brecken Hill home in Upstate New York for years. Wishy-washy Dan was duped in an investment deal gone wrong and is staring bankruptcy in the face, (pay attention to the details relative to Dan’s story- there is an Easter egg hidden within it), and Jenna, well-hh-hell- Jenna just loves to create the proverbial eye of the story s—t show.

There were times that I thought, “Oh this person did it” or “No! Maybe it was x” (I’ve removed the pronouns to avoid a spoiler alert). But it was all for naught – or at least – it was a twister on what or whom I thought did it.

I just love these kinds of reads.

I know you absolutely will too.

Buy the book here

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