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Eighteen-year-old Stella stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?
A Nearly Normal Family
The district courthouse is in downtown Lund, kitty-corner from the police building, a stone’s throw from Central Station. Anyone who lives in Lund passes the courthouse regularly, but most go their whole lives without setting foot inside the building. Until very recently, that was true for me as well.
Now I’m sitting on a bench outside Courtroom 2, and the monitor in front of me informs me that a trial is under way in a homicide case.
My wife is inside, on the other side of the door. Before we walked into the courthouse and went through security, we stopped on the stairs outside and held each other. My wife squeezed my hands so hard they trembled and she told me it is no longer up to us, that the decision is in someone else’s hands now. We both know that isn’t entirely true.
The loudspeaker crackles, and I am struck by an acute wave of nausea. I hear my name. It’s my turn now. I wobble as I rise from the bench and a security guard opens the door for me. He nods, but his expression doesn’t betray a single thought or emotion. There is no room for that here.
Courtroom 2 is larger than I’d expected. My wife is squeezed in among the audience members. She looks tired, exhausted. There are traces of tears on her cheeks.
An instant later, I see my daughter.
She’s pale and thinner than I remember; her hair looks tangled and wispy, and she looks at me with dull eyes. It takes all my strength not to run over and throw my arms around her and whisper that Dad is here, that I’m not going to let go of her until this is all over.
Why I love it
Author, Miracle Creek
A Nearly Normal Family is so much more than a typical thriller. It’s a Scandinavian noir that culminates in a dramatic courtroom sequence. It’s a murder mystery told by three narrators, none of whom agree on the same version of events. And most importantly, it’s a compelling family drama, each member trying desperately to keep secrets and lies from the others. If you love fast-paced thrillers, if you love flawed, real characters with distinctive voices, if you love smart puzzles, look no further. You’ve found your book.
Welcome to the nearly (but not quite) normal world of the Sandells: Adam, a pastor with an almost obsessive need for order; Ulrika, his workaholic attorney wife; and Stella, their mercurial, occasionally temperamental teenage daughter. When Stella is arrested for the murder of an older stranger, Adam and Ulrika stand by, ready to defend her against shocking accusations. How far will each go to protect her ... and themselves?
One of my favorite things about A Nearly Normal Family started out being my least favorite: the style. The first section, narrated by Adam, is methodical and dry, with a monotonous rhythm. I might have stopped reading if not for the propulsiveness of the plot. Gradually, though, it occurred to me that the austerity of his voice might be a character-driven choice. My suspicion was later confirmed when the voice switched to that of an angsty teenager in the daughter’s section, and then to an introspective tone when the mother finally took over for the murder trial we’d been patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting.
And that ending! When I closed the book, I sat for a while, marveling at the clever resolution, the satisfying reveals that kept coming and coming until the very last sentence. This riveting novel is M.T. Edvardsson’s first U.S. release, and I hope we get many more very soon.
Member ratings (13,358)
A nearly normal family is not what you think. You would be surprised at what lengths someone will go to protect family, especially when your relationship with them has not always been cohesive. Love prevails
Beautiful book that was well written. One of those that you’d love to see get a movie/ tv show adaptation but know they won’t give it justice. I couldn’t put it down, and I was on vacation in Colorado
Couldn’t put this book down!!! I loved how it is written in 3 parts in the perspective of 3 characters. Each one is very distinct & being “in their heads” is very cool. The story keeps you guessing!
Canoga Park, CA
This was the first book I read after moving to a brand new house. It helped me escape life stresses and was a great distraction. I even ended up naming a hamster after the main character, Stella! ????????
Sioux Falls, SD
Nearing the end of the book, I thought i had it all figured out. But the twists weren’t done yet. With each side of the story, this book got even more addictive. A real page turner you won’t put down.