Apples Never Fall
Joy Delaney, almost 70, has vanished.
Her husband of fifty years, Stan, and their four kids–Brooke, Amy, Logan, and Troy–say they’ve no idea where’s she gone. She left no word of where she was headed and her cellphone, purse, and car are all sitting at home. Has she been killed? And if so, did Stan do it? After all, he has scratches on his face and an unhelpful manner. Do his children suspect him? Are they protecting him? What do they know–because they obviously know something–that they’re not telling the police? And how does Savannah, the mysterious young woman who stayed a few weeks with Stan and Joy earlier in the year, figure into it all?
This is the ostensible plot of the latest headed-for-the-big/small-screen novel by Australia’s best-selling author Liane Moriarty. But if Joy’s disappearance is the kernel of the film, the flesh of this story is that of the Delaney family. I couldn’t get enough of them; each is so fully formed and fallible I could have successfully bought them each a Christmas gift they’d have loved.*
The novel lays out the lives of the Delaneys-it goes back and forth in time like all Moriarty’s books–in reverent detail. We see Stan and Joy as children–they were both in the very top tier of Aussie tennis players at very young ages–as young passionate lovers, as exhausted parents, as successful business partners in on of Australia’s most venerated tennis schools, all the way through to their 50th Valentine’s Day together–it’s the last day anyone heard from Joy. Their kids too are limned through Moriarty’s crisp, descriptive prose and their secrets and dreams resonate with realism.
I liked Savannah, the perhaps villainess of the story, less. Like many psychopathic liars, she’s a blurry protagonist and one I found hard to believe in. That said, the way Savannah understands the Delaneys and uses their best impulses against them is great fun to read mostly because the Delaneys are wonderfully and precisely fascinating.
As I listened to this story–Caroline Lee’s narration is a knock-out–I wondered at where these six people would land. Did Stan murder Joy? (This is the conviction of the dogged detective on his trail, a long-suffering young woman named Christina Khoury whose determination to see Joy’s disappearance as a crime is obviously understandable.) Will Amy, the oldest and most offbeat Delaney child, ever get her shit together and see the love right under her eyes? Will Troy decided to let his ex-wife whom he still loves implant the embryos they made when they were still married so that she and her new husband can have a baby? Will Brooke’s physiotherapy practice succeed better than her marriage? Will Logan win back the heart of Indira or subdue the low-level jealousy he harbors towards his brother’s successes ? And, most importantly, will Joy, whose love, determination, and sheer verve have ruled her own family for years, get the future she deserves or is she yet another victim of suburban violence?
You’ll want to know the answers to these questions badly. And, with the exception of the very last chapter which I am convinced was written with an eye toward the novel’s inevitable filming, I loved the resolution to these stories. The novel is hopeful and, even better, clear eyed on the necessary compromises one makes for family and for love. Apples Never Fall is my favorite of Moriarty’s work–read it before it hits the screen.
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*Delaney gift list: