BOOK CLUB: A Nearly Normal Family

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Author: MT Edvardsson
ISBN: 978-1-5290-0813-5
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 25 June 2019
Publisher: Macmillan (2019)
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

“A Nearly Normal Family” is that rare thing, a thriller that genuinely keeps you guessing until the last few pages of the novel. Believable characters, good writing, and a plot that’s easy to believe, all contribute to a compelling narrative.

This is an excellent translation from Swedish. The speech sounds natural (often a particular problem with translations), there’s no odd word use, and it all flows well. In fact, I had to go back and check that it was a translation, because it was so seamless.

Although the novel is set in Lund, in Sweden, the urban setting will likely feel familiar to many readers. Similarly, Adam, Ulrika and Stella – the family of the title – will feel familiar to many. Adam is the overprotective father struggling to come to terms with the fact his almost-adult daughter makes choices different to his. Ulrika is the mother who’s always struggled to balance her career and parenting. Stella is the daughter who doesn’t understand her parents, and doesn’t really want to. She just wants to forge her own path.

All perfectly normal, perfectly familiar – until Stella is arrested for murder.

The novel is told in three sections, from the perspective of Adam, then Stella, then Ulrika. Within each section, from chapter to chapter, the novel switches between the present and the past – sometimes a more distant past, sometimes just the last few weeks. This sounds confusing, but in fact it’s easy to follow. It’s a brilliant way of maintaining suspense and building towards the murder. In addition, the perspectives overlap slightly – we see how differently each of them has interpreted some events. And that, of course, increases the doubt in our mind regarding Stella’s guilt or innocence.

This clever structure also layers our understanding of the characters and how they’ve reacted to certain events. Each character has some traits we recognise from the first pages, but as the novel proceeds, each is developed into a complex individual. Most readers will find something to empathise with in each, and will feel they understand them.

The Swedish legal system is a little different from the American system we see depicted so often, and so the goals of those defending Stella are a little different than we might expect. For me, this added a little extra interest.

I found this a tense and engaging thriller. I wanted a positive outcome, but as the moral questions piled up, my view of what that might be changed. I genuinely wasn’t sure who’d committed the murder; and I was thoroughly absorbed in the journey to find out. Highly recommended.

This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine.

A Nearly Normal Family is available now through Pan Macmillan and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 15 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading A Nearly Normal Family so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below

12 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: A Nearly Normal Family

  1. Reading The Nearly Normal Family was strange for me. I wanted to love it! The story guide really intrigued me & starting to read it, I was drawn in. Reading from the perspective of the father & then the daughter kept me intrigued but then reading the mother’s story & some of the decisions just made it a bit sour. When I finished the book I remained positive about it UNTIL I actually started thinking about it in terms of writing a review. I quickly realised that I didn’t actually enjoy the book after all! In each section of the book, the author made in roads in describing different character traits & snippets as to why these traits appear but then in each instance, I felt that they didn’t go anywhere & therefore were unnecessary & just muddied the story line. Some of the relationships just weren’t developed enough either. Characters with not much of a mention all of a sudden play an integral part of the story?? The more that I thought about it, the more that this book annoyed me.

    I liked how the book was presented – in the three stories but just felt that the characterisation & story development was lacking.

    Thank you to Pan Macmillan & Beauty & Lace for a book that made me think & made me question my initial impressions!

  2. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for this copy of A nearly normal family by M.T.Edvardsson.

    After Stella, daughter of a Pastor and a lawyer, gets accused of murder the whole family does what they think is right to protect their loved ones.

    This book captured me from the start. I couldn’t put it down.
    I found it easy to read and follow as it was written so well and was very descriptive. The story was great and had many twists and turns and kept you guessing right down to the last page.

    It was written in three parts, the father’s view, daughter’s view and finally the mother’s view. I found this style good as you didn’t get lost with chopping and changing every few pages.

    I would reccomend this book and look forward to reading more books from this author in the future.

  3. Thankyou to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan Australia for the opportunity to read A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson.

    The book is about the Sandell family.
    The story is narrated in 3 parts.
    The first part is the Father, Adam’s perspective. He is a minister for the Church of Sweden, his life is based on honesty. He is frustrated by his daughter Stella ‘s choices. She has been rather rebellious through her childhood and now in her teenage years he doesn’t feel close to her.

    The second part of the story is from 18 year old Stella , the daughter. She has been arrested and is the main suspect in a murder. She allows us to know aspects of her life her parents have no idea about.She has a best friend Amina.

    The third section is by Stella’s mother Ulrika, a successful criminal lawyer. She feels guilt over her choice to return to work when Stella was a baby, allowing Adam to be the primary carer in Stella early years.

    Who is lying and who is telling the truth is the question !
    Daughter, Father,Mother and best friend………4 complex characters!
    To find out if Stella is guilty or innocent….you will need to read the book !
    The book challenges….. how well do you know your own children and how much would you do to save your child!

    A brilliant read, a suspenseful thriller. Thouroughly recommend this book.

  4. Just LOVED this book.

    I was hooked from page 1, the storyline was fast paced but gave enough details and background on the characters. The story was real and easily able to be believed…I liked the twist and the suspense of not really knowing who was the real killer until the end. The story played out and drew the reader into firstly the lives of Adam, Stella and Ulrika, how they felt about there family life and this situation. The courtroom was very well written it was fast paced to as to not loose the readers attention and gave just enough to keep you wanting to turn the page.

    I love a good thriller and suspense novel and this had it all… an appropriate name for the book and the writing was well thought out and researched giving enough background and forethought to lead into the next character and their storyline. I just loved it. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves these types of novels.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan Australia for the opportunity to read A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson.

  5. Thank you Beauty and Lace, Pan MacMillan for the opportunity to read this book. Nearly A Normal Family by M T Edvardsson.
    I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy this book and subsequently couldn’t finish it. I’m not one hundred percent sure why as I was so looking forward to it.
    It jumped around a lot and some of the characters just didn’t seem real to me. It was like they didn’t care about anything that was happening to them. Maybe I’ll give it another go down the track.

  6. Thank you BeautyandLace and Pan MacMillan Australia for July‘s book club novel A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson.

    I absolutely loved this book, it was a real page turner for me and I couldn’t wait to find a quiet moment so I could finish the book. I think I read this book in one weekend, I couldn’t wait to see how this ended.

    The book is written in three parts. The first part is told by the father, part two is written in the perspective of the daughter, the accused and the final part is narrated by the mother.

    The Sandall family on first appearance is like every other family, until one day their perfectly ordinary lives are shattered when their only child, their daughter is accused of murder.

    What would you do if your daughter was a suspect in a murder case, would you believe her innocence despite all the evidence stacked against her? As a parent would you do anything to protect your child, lie or even hide the facts from your spouse?

    I just loved this suspenseful thriller, it really had me guessing right until the end, was she innocent or guilty?
    A brilliant book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, if you like crime fiction, I think you’ll love it too.

  7. Thank you for the chance to read this book

    I loved it and couldn’t put it down
    It was interesting , well written , thrilling and kept me turning pages all day

    This book is written from three perspectives
    One from the Father , one from the Mother and one from the Daughter who has been charged with murder

    Very interesting to compare how and why they had such different perspectives on the same problems

    I think you are looking for a book that will keep you guessing until the very end this is it

    Would recommend it to anyone that’s enjoys reading suspense

  8. What a riveting book! A Nearly Normal Family is about an ordinary family – a father who is a pastor, a mother who is a lawyer and a rebellious daughter. Everything seems normal until one night the daughter arrives home late with blood on her blouse. Then the very next day she is arrested on the suspicion of murder!

    This story is told from three points of view starting from the father, daughter and mother. Each character puts their own spin on the events and just when you think you know them, the next character adds extra depth and understanding to the previous character that changes the way that you think about them.

    I loved the way that it was written. I was really hooked and pleasantly surprised with the ending. I also enjoyed reading the mother’s perspective as her point of view included a courtroom scene which I love!

    It’s a slow build up to a suspenseful end and I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it!

    On the whole a very satisfying read.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Pan MacMillan for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

  9. Edvardsson’s ‘A Nearly Normal Family’ is a compulsive page turner. The book is split into three sections with each of the protagonists narrating their stories, although there are several overlaps of thoughts and feelings throughout. By writing in this style, the author can guide the reader to get to know the characters closely and understand the dynamics of their relationships.
    A family that consider themselves normal until their world is upturned when their only child, nineteen-year-old Stella is taken into custody for being suspected of the murder of a man Christopher Olsen, fifteen years her senior. Stella is the daughter of local pastor, Adam and Ulrika, a successful lawyer.
    Stella’s parents have their moral values tested. Despite their daughter being impulsive and having had behavioural issues, they are left wondering what to believe. The reader is faced with the question of how far one would go to protect their child. Would one lie even if they were a trusted member of the community? What would one cover up, if anything to clear their child’s name?
    I like crime stories, and this was a definite compulsive read. If you like psychological thrillers with plenty of suspenseful moments, grab a copy of this book.

  10. OMG this book gripped me from page 1 and I couldnt put it down.

    Unlike many books where a multitude of characters are thrown at you, the author takes the time to develop each group of characters before introducing the next. This builds a raptor with the characters and ensures that you just cant put this book down!

    The suspense increased slowly as you got to know everyone until it became the ‘OMG I can not read fast enough to find out what is happening’.

    The end was certainly not what I was expecting which was great and was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

    Thank you for letting me read this amazing book.

  11. There’s nothing I love more than a quality suspense thriller, especially when written from multiple points of view and with potentially unreliable narrators. A Nearly Normal Family ticks so many boxes I devoured it as fast as life, work and children would allow!

    Drawn in from the first page, I loved patching pieces of the puzzle together from the different narrators and trying to guess how it would all play out. It was fascinating to read about the same events from the point of view of the mother, the father and Stella, the accused teenager.

    The gripping writing held me captivated until the very end, although I didn’t want it to end!

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Pan MacMillan for the opportunity to read and review this cracking book. I would recommend it highly!

  12. A Nearly Normal Family, by MT Edvardsson, is a gripping and suspenseful thriller that kept me guessing until the final page. When Chris Olsen is found stabbed to death in a playground, 18-year-old Stella is charged with his murder. The events that follow, and relevant historical events, are described from the perspectives of three different narrators – Stella’s father, Adam, a pastor in the Church of Sweden, Stella herself, and Stella’s mother, Ulrika, a lawyer. The narrators introduce us to several other characters, who all of whom fit into the jigsaw puzzle in various ways. While the use of three different narrators has the potential to result in a disjointed and convoluted story, Edvardsson’s style ensures that this doesn’t happen.

    I greatly enjoyed reading this novel. I was hooked from the beginning and I soon needed to know what had happened. I enjoyed delving into the intricacies and secrets of each character and viewing events from different perspectives. Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Pan Macmillan for giving me the opportunity to read and review this excellent book.

    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Pan Macmillan for the the opportunity to read and review this novel.

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