A Nearly Normal Family

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

A Nearly Normal Family was our July pick for The Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading Group. This one started off seeming like a normal legal thriller here and even though it wasn’t the gripping read I was expecting here there wasn’t anything normal about this legal thriller, domestic/family drama, whodunit and courtroom drama all in one. 

Give me a story with a family in crisis and I am all over it. The story did start off a bit slow for me until about 65% in and then things picked up and I was on the edge of my seat turning those pages as fast as I could. I loved the theme here with what seems like a normal family find themselves questioning everything about each other after a crisis leads them protecting the ones they love. 

I enjoyed the structure here to the story that is told in three parts with the POV of the father, Adam, the daughter Stella who is accused of murder and the mother Ulrika. I liked how we saw something different with each of their perspective that added some complexity to the story.

M.T. Edvardsson explores just how far this family will go to save the ones they love and gives it a twist that left this reader very happy with the way this one wrapped up. It left me thinking about so many thought-provoking questions and wanting to discuss it with my friends.
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What would you do for your child? 
Would you lie for her?
Would you go against your principles to save her? 

This is the conundrum, Stella's parents will find themselves in M.T. Edvardsson's debut novel.

Stella Sandell is not your typical teenager. Her mother is a criminal defense lawyer and her father is a well-known pastor. Stella has had problems since she was a child. She had problems with impulse control, explosive anger disorder, ADD, and she has dwelled for a little bit with drugs and alcohol. 

In Stella's mind, her father, Adam is too overprotective. When she was little she adored him but as the years passed, she started becoming annoyed by him. She plans to take a trip to Asia to be free of his constant presence. On the contrary, her mother, Ulrika was a workaholic and Stella felt she was never there for her growing up. For Stella, the only constant in her life has been Amina Besic, her best friend since they were in kindergarten. These girls are loyal to each other and they have each other's backs. Stella and Amina decided early on not to let any man come between their friendship. They have no idea that on this, their friendship will be tested.

While on a night out, Amina and Stella meet an older man, Chris Olsen. In the beginning, it seems that Chris is interested in Amina but as the night progresses and a taxi cab ride later, Stella and Chris are in route to becoming a couple. What develops should be a romance, instead just a few weeks later, Chris is found murdered and Stella is the prime suspect.

I enjoyed this Swedish novel. It's narrated in three parts. The first part by Adam, the second part by Stella and the third part by Ulrika. 

I got to be honest here, I didn't like Stella one bit while Adam was narrating his part and even at the beginning of Stella's POV. Yet, by the time I finished hers and began Ulrica's, I had completely changed my mind. 

The ending was just like I imagined it: Very satisfactory. I'm not sure what it says about me.

“I was full of conflicting emotions. As a lawyer, I was guilty of the most horrific violation of the law one could imagine. As a mother, my choice was the only correct one. I still had no idea what had happened on Friday night, but I knew with certainty that it was my duty to protect my daughter”

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Celedon Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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How far would you go if your seventeen-year-old daughter was accused of murder? Told in three parts. The mother being a criminal defense attorney and the father is a pastor. This packs a punch at the end. I was glued to it. There is so much in this story. This a great book club read. The topics for discussion are endless. A fabulous summer crime thriller.
I was given a copy by the publisher for my honest review.
Novels N Latte Review
Novels N Latt Book Club
Huson Valley NY
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This story has it all! Suspense, twists and turns, and characters that are well written and who make you emotionally involved in the story. I will be looking for more books from this author.
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A slow burn that’s hot… 4.5, rounded up

I usually don’t like slow burns, but this crime drama had a fire that warmed me right up. Did the nearly normal daughter commit this heinous crime? Did the nearly normal parents act normally?

Here is what the husband said about their lives:

“On Monday nights, my wife went to yoga and on Thursdays I played tennis. We had a mortgage, which we dutifully made payments on; we sorted our trash and used our blinkers and kept to the speed limit and always returned library books on time.”

Even though they sound sort of anal (or goody-two-shoes?), with the speed limit and library-book-returns business, they really are normal as all get out. Until their daughter is accused of murder! We get the dad’s story, then the daughter’s, then the mom’s. The different perspectives on the same situation kept adding more depth to the characters and more excitement to the plot. It’s all told in first person, which I like because it makes the characters seem so real, like they’re personally letting me in on their secrets.

I wasn’t wowed by the first section, which was the dad’s. He was a sympathetic character, and I felt his pain (which is the most important thing, actually). But he was a little too predictable and a tad boring. His conflicts and his behavior were just, well, nearly normal—even the thing he did that was supposed to be a big deal (I’m being vague on purpose here).  He seemed sort of whiny, and he repeated stuff. He reminded me of the dad in a book I loved called Defending Jacob—maybe a little too much, in that I’d heard it all before. One thing that did work was this: he made me so so curious to find out what his daughter was like. Was she nearly normal? Or was she a psychopath? What were her secrets? I mean, all teenagers keep secrets, but were hers especially bad, or even evil?

I was so jazzed when he shut up, because next I got to hear directly from his daughter, who was in jail. (Cool transition by the author.) Let’s hear what she has to say! What was she really like? Was she capable of killing someone? I got busy comparing what she said to what her dad had reported about her, trying to figure out whether his worries were justified, trying to size her up. It was hard not to get attached to her, even though I didn’t know if she was guilty or whether she was someone I should be attached to. I loved this section completely. I liked how she didn’t tell the whole story—I had to wait until the end to find out what really happened. And it was a clever surprise!

The mom’s story took up the last section of the book, and that’s where we got riveting courtroom scenes. I’m not always crazy about courtroom dramas, but here the scenes were perfection. Good lawyers, good questions, good answers, and no confusion (no new players whom I had to get to know at the last minute). I was pretty much on the edge of my seat by this time. I liked the mom’s story. She was angsty, but it didn’t get old. Hearing from her was a treat after hearing about her second-hand from her husband and daughter. She was much more complex than I had thought.

This is a crime drama with depth and soul. The characters are all introspective and don’t cut themselves any slack. I love it when characters think so much about what they’re doing and how it affects everyone else; it elevates the mystery, makes it ten times better than a flat whodunit. The author did a great job showing us the complex family dynamics—the dysfunction and the love, the secrets and lies, the doubts. It perfectly captures the pain and guilt of being a parent, and drills home how you just don’t ever know what your teenagers are doing. They do have a secret life—you just have to hope it’s not an evil or dangerous one.

Editor twitches: Once, info was presented twice, several pages apart. Editor, editor, where are you? And there was an incident at jail that was just dropped. I desperately wanted to hear what happened afterward.
The author is Swedish; I thought the translation was good. It was fun to see how the justice system works in Sweden. It wasn’t totally different from what we have in the U.S., but different enough to make me stop and ponder. Need to check out whether this author has other books that have been translated.

Final verdict: A really good read. A fantastic character study and a cool and satisfying courtroom scene. Great for people who want a meaty whodunit or who want a good family drama. Funny, this is the second literary crime drama I’ve read this year—Miracle Creek is the other. Both had teenage girls in the mix and both had courtrooms. I loved both books, but right this second I think I liked A Nearly Normal Family a little bit better. It’s close, though. Read both, is what I say; neither will disappoint.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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Excellent Book!!!  I love how the authour, M.T. Edvardsson, seperated the story line with the family.  She had the father's version first, then the daughter and finally the mother with the Epilogue at that the end to tie everything up.

It was so well written I did not know how the story was  going to end until the very end.  

The story is about a family that on the outside looks normal and from certain characters in the book they think they are normal.  There daughter is put in jail for a crime.  The father is a pastor and the mother is a lawyer.  You see how everyone is in the same family but looks and takes situations differently.

This is a must read!
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Ulrika and Adam Sandell, are celebrating the birthday of their daughter, Stella, age 18.  

Adam is a pastor and a great believer in God.  Ulrika is an attorney.  They are both loving and good parents.

Stella has a long time friend, Amina, who wants to be a doctor.  At times, Stella has had trouble controlling her temper.  Today, Stella has been arrested for the stabbing murder of Christopher Olsen, 32.  As it happens, his mother, Margaretha, is a professor of criminal law.  Christopher has been a successful businessman.  How did he get involved with Stella?  Did Stella truly stab him to death?

This book is a study in the lengths that a parent or friend will go to protect their child or friend.  The time Stella spends in jail awaiting trial and the agony of her parents as they await that time.  This time is told through the viewpoint of Stella, Adam, and Ulrika.

While I’m sure that many readers found this fascinating, I did not.  I realize that this book takes place in Sweden and, perhaps, the freedoms given a teenager may be a bit looser than here in the U.S., I still could not help but question some of the behavior that Adam and Ulrika found acceptable for Stella.  In addition, the story seems to drone on for too long a time.  Sorry.  Not my cup of tea.

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Excellent psychological thriller!  It moved at a fast pace with twists and turns throughout!  Well-developed characters and plot.  Highly recommend!
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"A Nearly Normal Family" is an English translation of a Swedish novel. It is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read.  It focuses on the Sandell family -- Adam, Ulrika, and teenage daughter Stella.  Shortly after turning eighteen, Stella is accused of murdering Christopher Olsen, a wealthy businessman whose mother is a well-known and influential law professor.  Adam is a pastor and Ulrika is a lawyer and both are very image-conscious, especially Adam, who wants everyone to think their family is normal, although Stella has had some behavioral issues that have cast the family in a negative light at times.  However, beneath the façade, there are numerous cracks in the foundation of the family; and the family will be tested by the murder charges.

The story is broken up into three main parts, with the first part focusing on Adam's perspective of their family life, the issues he and Ulrika have experienced with Stella, and his actions following Stella's arrest, including behavior that crosses ethical lines.  The second part focuses on Stella, alternating between her time in jail and earlier events in her life, including her connection to Mr. Olsen.  The third part is from the perspective of Ulrika, alternating between the trial and earlier events.  Also critical to the story is Amina, the best friend of Stella.  

The characters are well-developed, with a good mix of strength, weakness, failings, and uncertainty.  The author explores how far people will go to protect their loved ones and to keep up appearances, with Adam and Ulrika both contemplating or engaging in actions that could or will ruin their professional careers and could tear the family apart, while Stella takes actions to protect Amina.  Each person is hiding things with the goal of helping the others, not trusting that the others can handle the whole truth (or at least the whole truth as the particular character understands it).  The plot is well-paced, with information coming out at a steady pace, but keeping the reader off-balance, unsure which version of events is most accurate.  There are some rather good surprises.  The ending is less surprising for what actually happened (as the reader will likely have guessed the most likely scenarios), than for what particular characters publicly reveal.  Stella is the most enjoyable character and her conversations with Shirine, the psychologist she meets with in jail, are some of the best parts of the book, delving into the psychological motives of rebellion, violence, psychopaths, lying, etc.

I received a copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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Such a good story of family dynamics.  How do you know your child knows right from wrong? What do you do if your child commits a crime? Do you know what really happened? How far would you go to protect your family? Until you are put into that situation, we just judge from the outside looking in.  Great novel that makes you think- what would you do?
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Clever, compulsive, & emotive!

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EDVARDSSON was quite the unique, intense, and fascinating story.  I was thoroughly entertained and loved how this story was broken up into three very powerful sections from each of the family members.  The first section from the father's point of view started off a little shaky for me but then once I got to Stella's (the daughter's POV) I was hooked.  This was such an emotionally gripping story that was absolutely unputdownable!  Highly recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Caledon Books and M.T. Edvardsson for the complimentary copy.
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I really wanted to like this book. I've been trying to finish it for months. I have picked it up and put it down so many times and I can't get through it. I find the character of the father to be impossibly annoying, he is always stepping in where he doesn't belong and using the excuse of "but I'm her father I'm doing what's right". Maybe one day I'll finish this book but I just can't get into it enough to want to. The mystery doesn't build fast enough, they don't tell the reader very much and it's too slow moving.
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Wow....that's all I can say. I just finished this book, and I loved it! 
The book follows a family consisting of a pastor/father (Adam), lawyer/mother (Ulrika), and their crazy/impulsive/daughter (Stella).  Stella is an "out of control" teen getting ready to graduate high school and move on to a trip to Asia to hopefully find her way and make decisions on where she wants her life to go. Then the world comes crashing down around her, and she is arrested for murder.  The question then arises, what would you so to protect your child and your family? Would you lie; hinder the prosecution?  As a parent, would you risk everything you have for the love of your child?  
I am a big fan of books that keep you guessing, and have a twisted plot. This book was right up my alley, and the fact that you don't know the whole truth until the last page made it all the better. I would definitely recommend this book!
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I really enjoyed this one. Told through three different points of view, all three family members, we get to see all the different angles of this mystery. A young girl is accused of murder. The story unfold with how all three members of the family deal with the accusation. The twists and turns were great and the characters were well developed. I will definitely read more by this author. 4⭐️  Thank you NetGalley for the early review copy.
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Guys I really thought I was going to love this one. It started out good for me but then just fell flat. I never ended up feeling a connection with the characters. The story is told in 3 POVs , Stella, Adam (Stella's dad), and Urika (Stella's mom), which gives you an understanding of the story as it unfolds.There was alot of family dynamics in this book, and I thought there was going to be more about the murder trial. It wasn't a terrible read, but I also wasn't wowed by it. The translation for me didn't seem to flow for me! Thank you Celadon books and netgalley for my approval to read in advance for Review!
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A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson was a slow paced, somewhat plodding along story told from the POV of three family members, none of whom were very likeable.  For me, it was hard to connect with the story, although others have found it interesting. 

Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to preview the book.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this unusually structured Scandinavian novel. The way the author lays down the narrative first through the father, then the daughter and finally the mother adds greatly to the plot and how the reader perceived the actions of all parties. It felt very modern while still being Scandinavian (one of my favorite genres). No spoilers, just my opinion that this was riveting and original and a very engaging read. Thanks to #netgalley for the joy of reading #anearlynormalfamily ahead of publication.
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This book was incredible. Family drama, thriller, secrets and a murder trial!!! I enjoyed the point of view that alternates from past to present. I was quickly flipping through the pages. So many twists and turns. Loved the family dynamic that the author portrayed so excellent. If you enjoy a good suspense thriller with lots of surprises, this book is for you! So well written with rich, complex characters.
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I enjoyed this legal thriller about a daughter accused of murder and the fallout for the family -- how the charges effect them, how they react, what the parents are willing to do to protect their daughter and their "happy family" appearance.
The story is told from 3 points of view, the pastor father, the lawyer mother, and the rebellious daughter accused of murder. As the novel evolves, the family history comes out and how outward appearances are not always accurate, how "normal" is not what it always appears to be once the surface is cracked, and what families, even troubled ones, are willing to do to protect each other.
The differing points of view were a good way to explore this family and their reasons for how they acted. I liked the tension and the uncertainty around who actually committed the crime. This is not an "action packed" thriller, more of a study and I did find some parts slow, especially during the father's point of view section. Overall, though, I liked this book and the playing with the idea of what normal is and that behind closed doors we are different from the persona we present.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy of this book.
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A Nearly Normal Family was easily one of the best thrillers that I have read this year. It seemed like when I first started it, that it would be a long and tedious read but once I got started it really didn't feel like that. It flowed together very nicely.

I thought that the writing was smooth and the pacing was nice. The two of them combined was refreshing. With me saying that-- I enjoyed the twists that were strategically placed throughout and the execution of them. I think the story structure and the writing helped a lot with that. 

I also really loved the concept and multiple POVs that we received throughout the book. Stella's POV was some of my favorite parts of this one. I think that what the others lacked, Stella's really picked up on. It was all very crucial to the story. 

At times this one was a tad predictable, but all in all I really enjoyed the book as a whole. The characters were questionable as was the plot at times but that didn't slow me down one bit.
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