Recently, I was looking for book recommendations, and a friend asked me what genre I like the most. In the past, my answer had always been novels; but when asked to identify a subgenre, I had to think hard. My answer was “drama,” the sort of story where you are eager to know what happens and just want to keep reading. It’s not necessarily a murder mystery, but just a very dramatic story with plot twists and strong emotions. Of course, a high quality of writing and digging deeply into each character is also important to me. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Little Fires Everywhere” come to mind as examples. So if you love any or all of these books, then Liane Moriarty’s “Apples Never Fall” should be next on your to-read list.
How often do you read a 450+ page novel without ever feeling that you were ready for it to end or wishing it were shorter? For me, that was the case when reading “Apples Never Fall.” I was engaged in every single page of the long and winding story. Somehow, Moriarty achieves an ideal mix of family drama, romance, mystery, mental health issues, and crime (murder, potentially?) in one thought-provoking story about a woman who goes missing just a year after hosting a mysterious house guest. Two timelines intertwine throughout the novel, which helped make it easy to stay engaged. The chapters were short, and if I felt slightly tired of a particular storyline, the novel would quickly switch to a different character, time, or situation, immediately capturing my attention again.
The character development in the novel also contributes to its success. Somehow I loved and hated all the characters at once. I pitied them, empathized with them, envied them, and felt invested in their success, even though I found some of them unbelievably annoying. This is a sign of truly strong writing.
Most impressively, Moriarty continuously drops clues about the ongoing mysteries, creatively providing relevant information throughout the novel. These clues were subtle enough that I could not guess the direction of the story, yet the ending felt almost too obvious once all was revealed. Every seemingly random anecdote and detail was purposefully and skillfully weaved into the story. As critical new information was revealed, the story began to sound incredibly familiar, and I realized that I had heard the same archetype from a different perspective, hundreds of pages earlier. Everything that felt disconnected suddenly made so much sense. If you are anything like me, you will be in awe of how seamlessly Moriarty pulls it off.
Despite all my raving about “Apples Never Fall,” no book is without fault nor room for improvement. This novel is very recent and mentions the Covid pandemic toward the end of the book. I found that the inclusion of the pandemic felt a bit random, not as seamlessly incorporated as everything else in the story. I understand that Moriarty was likely trying to maintain the book’s relevance by including real-life connections, but I believe the book would be more timeless and mysterious if the pandemic were left out. Until Covid came into the story, I imagined the story occurring at almost any relatively recent period of time, which added to its mysterious aura. I am also someone who rarely enjoys the inclusion of a token pandemic storyline in books or shows, which is why I confess that others might not see this as a negative.
I truly believe that I have found a new favorite book in “Apples Never Fall,” and I strongly encourage you to give it a try. I hope my comments will prevent you from being intimidated or overwhelmed by the immense page count — trust me when I say that you will only want to keep reading.