Today I’m delighted to join the blog tour for The Happy Family by Jackie Kabler. It’s the first book I’ve read by this author and it’s always good to try out new-to-me reads. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for the invite and to publisher One More Chapter for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s about:
About the Book
My family has just been reunited. So who is trying to tear it apart?
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?
Well … if you thought you had a complicated family life, I’m guessing you have very little on Beth, the protagonist in Jackie Kabler’s The Happy Family. As you can imagine, ‘happy family’ is very much a misnomer, at least as far as Beth is concerned. If her family history wasn’t difficult enough – a mother who absconded when she was a child and a father with dementia – her current, seemingly balanced home life is about to see some upheaval of the likes she was in no way expecting.
I think stories where a family member turns up unexpectedly are always going to set me, as a reader, on high alert. This was very much the case when Beth’s mother, Alice, arrives on the scene after a rather prolonged absence. In spite of the separation, she falls into family life with her daughter quite easily, making up for lost time and getting to know her two young grandchildren as well as bridging the huge gap with Beth. That’s the positive bit. And also the point at which things start taking a somewhat sinister turn.
Now I can’t lie, I never really trusted this new found family happiness, perhaps because I am a very cynical person, with a chequered family life of my own, so I am naturally suspicious of anyone, or anything that seems to be too good to be true. But things aren’t that straightforward, at least not in the way the author has twisted the story played upon the uncertainty of Beth’s own behaviour and personality. She’s a troubled soul, perhaps with understandable ‘mother issues’. Her circle of friends are limited and certainly older than she is, and she isn’t entirely comfortable in her own skin, plagued with self doubt driven by her mother’s decision to leave her behind.
How much of what happens in the book is down to Beth’s own paranoia, or perhaps her over indulgence in the off tipple or two after work, is hard to tell, but it does keep you guessing. With those around her are not beyond suspicion, and each has their own character quirks. There is also a shadow hanging around Beth. At least, she thinks there is – again, this is played carefully so you are never quite certain. Always just on the edge of doubt.
Now the book does explore the subject of gaslighting and also mental health, both obviously with Beth’s father’s decline and also covertly, by exploring Beth’s slow decline in terms of confidence and self doubt. It is a slow building situation, always keeping you wondering about who, if anyone, is really twisting the knife and whilst I was pretty sure where this was going (see above comment about cynicism and suspicion), there is enough evasiveness amongst all of Beth’s friends to keep sowing those seeds of doubt. Even Beth herself isn’t always in the clear, and as we slowly learn, has her own dark secret that she is desperate to keep.
With mystery, tension and a completely dysfunctional family unit that actually makes me feel a little better about my own, this is book that fans of psychological thrillers are sure to love. Watching Beth’s slow decline into doubt and self destruction kept me completely hooked to the page and has made me curious to go and see what else the author has to offer. Recommended.
About the Author
Jackie Kabler worked as a newspaper reporter and then in television news for twenty years, including nearly a decade on GMTV. She later appeared on BBC and ITV news, presented a property show for Sky, hosted sports shows on Setanta Sports News and worked as a media trainer for the Armed Forces. She is now a presenter on shopping channel QVC. The Happy Family is her sixth book; previous novels include the international bestseller The Perfect Couple. Jackie lives in Gloucestershire with her husband.
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