BOOK CLUB: A Nearly Normal Family

Click to rate this book!
[Total: 3 Average: 4.3]

A Nearly Normal Family by MT Edvardsson 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.

A Nearly Normal Family Book Club Questions

If you are a member of your own book club, you can discuss the book using these questions:

  • Which character did you connect with the most?
  • There were three narrators, how do you think their perspectives influenced your own point of view?
  • How did you feel about the ending, did you see it coming?
  • Did you enjoy the style of writing?
  • Did the Swedish backdrop appeal to you?
  • Did A Nearly Normal Family have you on the edge of your seat?
  • How do you feel about the Swedish legal system?
  • Would you recommend this book to others?

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. 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!

  2. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *