Publisher: Celadon Books
Date Published: June 25, 2019
My Rating: ★★★★
A Nearly Normal Family is a legal thriller that takes place after Stella Sandell is arrested for murder. It takes place in three parts, the first part of the book is from her father’s point-of-view, and then Stella’s, and in the end we get her mother’s. The book tries to explore whether members of the same family know each other as well as they think, and where the limits of loyalty lie.
I rated this five stars not because it’s flawless, because it’s not, but because it was the first book in a long time that had kept me captivated enough to finish it in one day, because it did everything it set out to do, and because I fell in love with the Swedish family at the center of it all.
This book is translated from Swedish, and so the writing is a tough thing to talk about. There are parts of the book where the language seems choppy and doesn’t flow perfectly, which would bug me a lot in a work that was originally written in English, but I don’t know the difficulties in translating Swedish to English and keeping all the nuances of the narrative intact, so I was willing to overlook it. Plus, it was a huge improvement from the last thriller and first-person narrative I read which was originally written in English and which I DNF’ed.
The plot itself is pretty typical for a legal thriller. There was a murder, a suspect is being tried, but did they do it? And if they did will they be found guilty?
Admittedly, one of the interesting parts of this book was reading about Swedish prisons and the legal system in place. I don’t think any country has found the magic formula for a fool-proof system, but it was interesting to read a story written by a Swedish man that touched on how things worked, what the general population in Sweden thinks about their own legal system, and how prisoners are treated. This is still a work of fiction though so everything I read was taken with a grain of salt.
The twists in the plot aren’t super unpredictable. They were fun, sure, but it wasn’t quite a roller-coaster. I didn’t mind that at all though, and I still enjoyed this immensely even if I did start to work it out for myself before the ending. Half the fun though is the anticipation of finally getting the confirmation of being right.
What really kept me reading, though, where the characters. The further you get into this the more you learn about the night of the murder and what happened leading up to it, but with each perspective you learn more and more about the family.
When you read from Adam’s perspective you think he’s just a protective father who loves his daughter, though some of his decisions were frustrating, part of me actually thought he was justified.
That being said, my favorite part of the book was the middle. Stella’s perspective because the most surprising part of the whole book was how much I liked her. I don’t want to give away too much, but, in my opinion she reads like a teenage girl, which isn’t a perspective I often find is done well by adult male authors.
I don’t want to say too much about what I liked about them because in a way, the twists are as much about the family and how we see each of its members as we find out more about what happened leading up to and in the aftermath of the murder as they are about the murder case itself.
I’m hoping that this author continues to write and that his works continue to be translated into English because I’d love to read more of his stuff. Maybe the translations will lose their choppiness as time goes on as well.
I’d highly recommend this book, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve read in 2019.