Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty begins with a disappearance: Joy Delaney, retired tennis instructor and mom of four vanishes from the family home. She doesn’t leave a note. Her cell phone is found under her bed. She sent her kids a text message of nonsense, and then poof was gone.

What happened to her? Was her perfect marriage not so? Did she finally have it with her husband and leave? And what about a strange young woman who showed up one night, a few months before, barefoot and cold, saying she was running away from an abusive boyfriend? Did she have something to do with a woman who built her life on routines suddenly going missing?

I read most of Apples Never Fall while sick with a horrible, throat ripping cold (not COVID, trust me, I was tested many times). I could do little else but read, so the book did entertain me while I was ill. Moriarty is good at building a mystery by dropping hints throughout the narrative, and I enjoyed that part, even if the building was a little late to start. The first jaw dropping moment didn’t come until page 115 of 532 (and yes I did think the book was too long).

What I didn’t enjoy was the same problem I had with What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotists’ Love Story, which I both read earlier this year: Moriarty writes these fascinating female characters, and then gives them terrible men and redeems those men. I’m not talking specifically about the big mystery here, but the two sons, Logan and Troy. Logan was indifferent to his girlfriend, her wants, dreams and needs, to the point she moved out. Troy CHEATED ON HIS WIFE, and we’re supposed to sympathize with him? I’m at the point where I wonder if Moriarty is trying to write through feelings about a man or men she knows, and is making fictional excuses for them in the hopes that it’ll work out in real life.

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers the most out of all her books I’ve read. I don’t recall any of that in these (though I read Big Little Lies in 2017). The most compelling couple in Nine Perfect Strangers was one trying to recover from the death of their son. That felt real. Propping up men who so obviously have wronged their partners is not.

Am I still sick and grumpy? Sure. Do I think it would change how I feel about this? I don’t think so.

Nail polish: Candied Kingdom by OPI.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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