Saturday, September 11, 2021

Review: Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

by Shari Lapena
Release Date: July 27, 2021
2021 Pamela Dorman Books
Kindle Edition; 349 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984880550
ASIN: B08R1CZ966
Audiobook: B08SQ1ZM92
Genre: Fiction /Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
2.5 / 5 Stars
In this family, everyone is keeping secrets--especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Mercer. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mercers are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew.
My Thoughts
Not a Happy Family is one of those books that missed the mark for me.  I usually enjoy a Lepena novel and look forward to reading them, but couldn't empathize with any of the characters and thought the story line was kind of repetitive.  

The main characters, the three children, are pretty messed up.  I don't normally mind it too much when I don't like the main characters as long as I can empathize with them, but I couldn't even do that in this book. I can't even put my finger on why as the author didn't deliberately do anything to write them as completely dislikable, but I just couldn't find it in myself to feel any sympathy towards any of them, even after learning about their childhoods.  A character can make a lot of wrong choices, and even make questionable decisions, and as a reader, you still root for them and hope they are not the one that did anything.  In this case, I actually hoped they were all involved so they would all end up in jail.  

The plot was fun at the beginning as I found it intriguing how the siblings all seemed to turn on each other and wonder what the others were actually up to the night of the murders.  All of them seemed to have different motives and they all definitely have their own secrets.  I also thought that Fred's sister was the most interesting character, in the beginning, simply because she was the odd person out and everyone seemed to vilify her.  I was definitely curious about the dynamics of this family and their respective motivations.

Unfortunately, the plot simply turned repetitive, and I didn't find the twists and turns to be that interesting, more predictable and plodding.  I thought both the characters and the plot were underdeveloped.  The motives didn't necessarily make sense, and while I liked the ending, I really wasn't sure about the motivations for the actual culprit as there wasn't a good explanation.  

Not a Happy Family was a bit of a disappointment.  Both the story line and the characters were underdevelopped which made the book repetitive.  It was difficult to really know the motivations of the characters and to empathize with them.  This book definitely missed the mark with me.