The synopsis felt this could be a cliché read, following the pattern of a lot of psychological thrillers. Although in places it was predictable, I enjoyed this: it kept me gripped and threw enough curveballs that it didn’t fall into the typical patterns. Here’s my review on The Happy Family.
Publisher: HarperCollins UK / One More Chapter | Date: 2021 | Genre: Thriller
Plot: A mother who disappeared…
When Beth was 10 years old, her beautiful, wild mother Alice walked out and never came back. Beth’s life since hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but now she is happy and 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. Overjoyed to have the chance to rebuild their relationship, Beth invites her mother to move in.
A life that comes crashing down…
At first, everything seems wonderful. But then Beth’s friends begin to drift away, strange things start to happen at home, and rumours begin to circle about her past. As the mysterious events around Beth become darker and more dangerous, she is forced to question everything. Is somebody in her life trying to destroy her happiness? And how far will they go?
I received She Who Became The Sun from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Happy Family Review
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.
I need to know if she knows, or I’m going to drive myself mad. I need to find out, somehow, and I need to do it fast, because I can’t go on like this. I can’t.The Happy Family by Jackie Kabler
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!
Are you into thrillers that keep you guessing? Is this your sort of book?
You may also like:
- Book Review: The Girl You Gave Away by Jess Ryder
- Book Review: Someone Like Me by M.R Carey
17 thoughts on “The Happy Family Review | Jackie Kabler”
I haven’t heard of this book before. You have shared such a great and detailed review of your thoughts and experience.
Thank you for sharing.
Lauren – bournemouthgirl
Thank you – it was an interesting one to try and put my thoughts down, given I couldn’t always work out how I felt about the book!
Great review! I’m reaaally struggling with Thrillers at the moment due to the cliché and predictability of a lot of them. I don’t tend to get shocked or surprised with Thrillers anymore, even ones that DO have good twists. I’m just like “meh”. Which is a real shame. I admit, missing persons is a trope that I try and steer clear of now. I’ve read FAR too many books with missing people. This sounds like a good read though and thank you for being honest in this review!! x
This is my first one for a while because of those exact reasons and when it looked like it was going the same way, I was really kicking myself for requesting it. Thankfully it ended up better than I thought it would be but still, wouldn’t reinstate a love for thrillers for sure.
Thrillers aren’t my genre but this sounds like it’s actually better written than you’d first anticipated. I know what you mean about plot predictability, sometimes it does make you question whether you want to keep reading, but it was clearly worth it with this one. Great review of what was clearly a tricky book!
I fully expected to be rolling my eyes at it, so was pleasantly surprised when I realised it was doing something a little different, for sure.
Your take is very interesting. It’s cool that while it felt like a cliché, it ended up suspiring you.
It really did – it didn’t go the way I expected it to, for sure.
I’m not a huge fan of cliché plots or characters, so I’m sorry this one disappointed in this area. Thanks for sharing Lindsey x
It managed to hold it together better than I thought it would, which is always a plus, but could have done with a bit more originality.
This is a really good review! I am a fond of psychological thrillers but I need the characters to be well built. The story is a bit cliché as you already said so I don’t think I will read it any time soon. Thank you! I do appreciate that you state the flows 🙂
Yeah it let itself down in a few ways with the cliches – it was better than I expected it was going to be, but didn’t blow me away.
Great review, this sounds like an interesting read! Cliched plots are often very hard to get right, but it’s great that this one managed to take it in an unexpected direction.
Thanks! Yeah, I totally thought I knew what I was getting into with this one, and for the most part I was right, then there were a few curveballs which helped save it a bit.
I’ve never been a big fan of thrillers. They totally spook me! But something like this doesn’t sound particularly scary – just mysterious, I guess. It’s a bummer that it was kind of a cliche plot, but at least it had a few surprises in there to keep you interested throughout!
Yeah it’s definitely more mystery than thriller I’d say – especially with the cliche themes, there’s nothing to spook you here.
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