Cover Image: The Happy Family

The Happy Family

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Member Reviews

I don't know how she does it, but every Jackie Kabler book is better than the last! This is a clever, spine-tingling domestic thriller that slowly twists Beth's world and her understanding of her family. It was tense and rewarding, and I especially enjoyed the subtle reflections on what it means for Beth to truly be happy. Well worth the read, and a definite 5 star read!
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Beth is okay, her life is hectic but sorted.  Amicably divorced with a good job, good support network and  lovely friends.  She juggles her life around her children, work and  visiting her beloved father who single handedly brought her up since her mother walked out on them when Beth was a young girl.  Feeling abandoned by her mother had a profound effect on Beth as a young teen and has left her with anxieties, self doubt and a dreadful  guiltly secret from that time. 

Out of the blue her mum turns up on her doorstep.

Within a couple of months, her life has gone from  busy, happy contentment to a car crash of humiliating messes.  It was at times excrutiating and frustrating painful to watch Beth's decline into self doubt, self pity and self destruction. Seemingly the only one who remains in her corner is her mum.

Having read earlier books by this author I knew that the characterisation and writing style would appeal to me and it did.  In my opinion this is a slow burning domestic suspense rather than a full blown psychological thriller,.  It is an uneasy,  at times frustrating look at relationships, self doubt, self destruction and revenge.   For me, the ending was somewhat predictable but despite this I was gripped and had to read on to know  whether I was right and to see how Beth's future would pan out. 

3.5 - 4 stars
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and give an honest review.
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Not my favorite by this author

I generally really like this author’s work but this one was a bit tough. It went on far too long. Really, I felt quite uncomfortable with all the drama the main character endures. I’m not sure if she’s meant to be exceptionally naive or just a bit of a dope?? I saw where this was heading (both times) and I’m guessing if you read a lot of thrillers you will as well. I did finish it and I do like the way this author writes so I will check out the next but this fell a bit flat for me. Don’t let that put you off though if it sounds interesting. I also suggest you try some of the earlier work by this author. 

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter for a copy in exchange for a review.
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This was an OK read. I have previously loved this author and her work but sadly this wasn't as good. 
It was an OK read and there were some twists and things in there 

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers and the author for the opportunity to read this book for my honest opinion
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I’m not a huge consumer of psychological crime novels or thrillers but I do turn to them whenever I need to give the brain a break after reading a string of powerful or immersive books. But they still have to deliver something more than just the entertainment value of thrills and suspense. A protagonist with a complex personality is a must. A strong evocation of a specific location or time period is important. Ideally I want both to be matched with an interesting issue or a theme.

I wish I could say that The Happy Family, the latest novel by jackie Kabler, ticked some of those boxes. But it didn’t.

I chose it partly on the basis of recommendations from friends who have read her earlier novels and because it tackles the issue of gaslighting. It proved a frustrating read.

The Happy Family focuses on Beth Holland. a mother of two who has overcome heartache in her life. Her mother Alice disappeared when she was 10 years old, then her husband announced he was leaving the family home to set up with a beautiful and attractive barrister.

But that’s all in the past. Life is looking up for Beth. She got to keep her large house after the divorce, has an amicable relationship with her ex husband, and a close circle of friends among her colleagues at the health centre and her neighbours.

After a 30 year absence her mother turns up on her doorstep. Thrilled at the opportunity to re-establish the relationship, Beth invites her mother to move into her home. It’s a joyous time, with Alice playing the model mother and grannie. Joyful until that is, things start going awry. Beth’s friends become noticeably less friendly; she makes mistakes at home and begins to feel someone is watching her every move. As the disasters mount up, and it’s clear someone is determined to wreck her life, she seeks solace in her mother’s warm embrace.

It’s a reasonable enough, (though not especially novel) plot but it’s dragged down by the repetitive nature of the narrative and the glaringly obvious solution to the various twists and turns.

My struggles with this novel were compounded by my irritation with the main character of Beth. A woman so naive that when a stranger knocks on her door and says “I’m your long-lost mother” she not only believes her, but within days she’s asking her to take up residence. Er, wouldn’t a request for some proof (like a birth certificate) be in order??

But no, Beth takes everything this woman says as gospel truth. It’s bleedingly obvious to the reader that this is all too good to be true. Told by mum that the two women you thought were your best friends had made some horribly hurtful comments, wouldn’t you want to ask them personally for an explanation? But not our Beth, she just pours another drink and sniffles away. It’s hard to buy into a plot which contains a gaping hole of this size.

This is a novel that over-promises but under-delivers on the menace front. We get hints early on that all is not right in Beth’s life even before mum comes calling.

In Chapter 3 she shares her dread that “something that happened a long, long time ago, something I thought I’d managed to bury forever, might not be buried at all.” Another hint comes in Chapter 4: “The thing I’ve tried to bury so deep it can never escape. Now I’m starting to think I’m not being paranoid after all. I’m coming convinced that finally, after all these years, someone’s coming for me.”

The explanation is slow to materialise and when it does, it’s an anti-climax.

SPOILER ALERT: SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT TO AVOID LEARNING WHAT IS HAUNTING BETH

I don’t mean to dismiss bullying as a serious issue or to play down the horrid nature of what Beth did when she was aged 13. My point is that the author’s hints create certain expectations of ‘a big reveal’ that never actually materialises.

That’s not to say however that this is a book without any redeeming features. If it had been that bad I wouldn’t have read to the end.

The theme of gaslighting is handled well and we see how seemingly insignificant remarks and incidents snowball so that the victim ends up questioning their own judgment and grasp on reality. Even though I didn’t care that much for Beth as a character it was still sad to see how much her life spins out of control, particularly when intimate film footage of her is posted on social media.

Sadly this wasn’t enough to counter the elements I didn’t enjoy. I see that some Goodreads reviewers shared by reservations about this novel. To be fair however, others thought it fast-paced and compelling and gave it four and five stars. If they enjoyed it, I’m happy for them. All I can really say is that it wasn’t to my taste.
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Jackie Kabler is certainly making a name for herself as an another. Another fabulous book which will keep you gripped. Fast paced and great characters.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to see an arc
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If you like psychological thrillers where you’re constantly looking at people’s motives and wondering who is genuine, then you’re in for a treat with this book.  I loved the various characters and couldn’t put the book down until I had got to the end.  A very well plotted and well written book.
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A mother who disappeared… 
When Beth was 10 years old, her beautiful, wild mother Alice disappeared. Beth’s life since hasn’t always been easy, but now she’s settled, with a successful career, a loving family and a beautiful home. 
 An unexpected visitor… Then one day there’s a knock at the door. Alice has returned. Desperate to rebuild their relationship, Beth invites her mother to move in.
 A life that comes crashing down…
At first, everything is wonderful. But then Beth’s friends start to drift away, strange things happen at home, and rumours about Beth begin to circle. Someone is out to destroy Beth’s newfound happiness. But who? And how far will they go?

———————————————————————-

Book review 

This is my second Jackie Kabler book and it certainly won’t be the last 
This book was so addictive. It was full of tension. I loved the short chapters. It made me want to read more. I struggled to put the book down 
I really thought I had this book all covered. I got the most part of it right, but I didn’t guess the ending and it made me feel all warm inside. Such a satisfactory ending. 

This book was more of a domestic drama than psychological thriller. It is highly recommended.
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Nothing is as it seems with this book.  Just as soon as you think you have it figured out, the writer twists everything around.  I enjoyed the book and will read more by Jackie in future.
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Great story with excellent characters. I would recommend this book and look forward to reading more from the author Jackie Kabler
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A mother who disappeared… 
When Beth was 10 years old, her beautiful, wild mother Alice disappeared. Beth’s life since hasn’t always been easy, but now she’s settled, with a successful career, a loving family and a beautiful home. 
 An unexpected visitor… Then one day there’s a knock at the door. Alice has returned. Desperate to rebuild their relationship, Beth invites her mother to move in.
 A life that comes crashing down…
At first, everything is wonderful. But then Beth’s friends start to drift away, strange things happen at home, and rumours about Beth begin to circle. Someone is out to destroy Beth’s newfound happiness. But who? And how far will they go?

———————————————————————-

Book review 

This is my second Jackie Kabler book and it certainly won’t be the last 
This book was so addictive. It was full of tension. I loved the short chapters. It made me want to read more. I struggled to put the book down 
I really thought I had this book all covered. I got the most part of it right, but I didn’t guess the ending and it made me feel all warm inside. Such a satisfactory ending. 

This book was more of a domestic drama than psychological thriller. It is highly recommended.
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I really enjoyed this book.  It was a great storyline with excellent characters.  I would highly recommend this book as it was a great read.
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I found this book to be rather slow paced but it was interesting enough to keep me engaged and curious about where the story was going. It really got me guessing until the very end. It was an enjoyable read. 
Thank you NetGalley, Harper Collins UK & the author for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Glossy appearances aren't always what they seem as Jackie Kabler reminds us in The Happy Family, an engaging read.
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Not a bad book but not one of my favourites this year . it was quite a pleasant read but I found it a bit unbelievable that she didn’t check it was her mother, I don’t think many would have had that reaction if your mother suddenly turned up and I did unfortunately guess the ending too but it was still a 4 star read
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A past secret that could ruin you. A missing person suddenly coming back into your life. And your hard-won life starting to unravel before your eyes. It’s not a new story. But The Happy Family had interesting characters that you could root for and a few surprises along the way.

We follow Beth, a single mother of two with a history she tries not to dwell on. Her mother left when she was ten, and Beth has a secret… the kind of dark cliché secret hyped up to the point where the reveal makes you go ‘oh’ rather than ‘oh!’.

Beth is likeable enough. She cares for her friends and will do anything for her children. She’s nice. Nothing too fiery or untoward about Beth. As protagonists go, she’s okay. She’s naïve, and both too trusting and ready to accept the worst about people at the same time.

Her blind acceptance of other characters was a little irritating, especially when she cuts herself off from her friends and doesn’t think to question things. Her saving grace is her development, and I like how she handles both herself and events towards the end.

There’s a lot of secondary characters: Beth’s children, her ex, her friends, and those returning from her past. You never get to know them (which works with the story), but they deserve a better friend in Beth.

As mentioned, the plot borders on cliché. We’ve seen a lot of these stories with the past coming back to haunt characters. It’s been done. It did, however, take a direction I wasn’t expecting and avoided some of the pitfalls I was anticipating.

The final third of the book was a lot stronger – due to the plot veering away from predictability. It threw in a few twists and upped the stakes. It stopped the book from falling flat, and gave me that moment of realising I didn’t want to put it down.

The writing is solid. It doesn’t make your heart race, but it presents a well-crafted story that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The pacing is slow and the middle of the book felt it was going through the motions. The characters needed more depth (and less naivety) to really jump off the page. Both of these elements, however, helped support the type of story it was: you didn’t know the characters to be able to trust them. It worked.

The Happy Family is a tricky review. For the majority of the book, I thought it was cliché and predictable. Until I realised I was gripped and hadn’t foreseen a lot of the twists. It was also a fairly quick read which helped it hold my attention. I recommend this!
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My family has just been reunited. So who is trying to tear it apart?

A mother who disappeared…
This was a very disturbing but good read. 

Thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and could not get enough of. 

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good thriller!!
Absolutely loved the characters, the plot, the tension -  impossible to put it down.
Certainly recommended!
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A well written psychological thriller, well developed storyline, emotional.
A little slow though, it could have been fast paced it would have been more engaging.

3.5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing access to this book.  This is my honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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I was enjoying this one at first but it lost me very quickly. It started to get a little predictable around the middle and I felt like I needed to keep skimming. Not a mind-blowing read but it might definitely appeal to other fans of the author.
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Beth was 10 years old when her mother Alice disappears.
She has a great life now.
Then there’s a knock on the door.
Her mother has returned 
Why did she leave
But all is not plain sailing strange things start to happen
Beth’s friends start to drift away from her.
Who is trying to destroy her
Thanks NetGalley
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