A Nearly Normal Family

A nineteen year-old girl stands accused of the brutal murder of a much older man. Stella is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him? It must all be a terrible mistake. Chronologically told through three perspectives ingeniously organized in separate parts, we follow both the story of a crime and the unraveling of a seemingly normal family.

First we meet Adam, respected pastor in the local parish, doting husband to his wife Ulrika and adoring father to their only daughter Stella. The nightmare begins when Stella is apprehended by the police. Truth and decency have always been guiding principles for Adam, both in his profession and in his personal life, but when his daughter’s future is at stake he realizes he is prepared to lie to give her an alibi. He tells himself it’s harmless, since Stella is innocent anyway. But as we flash back to Stella’s childhood, we learn that the beloved daughter is more complicated than Adam at first let on. And under the mounting pressure of the investigation, Adam himself grows increasingly unhinged. With each new line he crosses, the once stable pillar of the community reveals an unexpected dark side…

Cut to: Stella, in a solitary jail cell. The bare concrete walls close in on the sassy teen as flashbacks reveal unexpected trauma from her childhood. Through Stella’s eyes we see the world and her family in an entirely new light. She did in fact have a relationship with the murdered Christopher Olsen, and that is not the only secret she has kept from her parents. Stella’s impudent voice unmasks the devoted father we got to know in the novel’s first third to reveal a strict control freak whose top priority appears to be not protecting his daughter, but saving face…

In the thriller’s third and final act we follow the trial through the voice and eyes of the rational but overwrought Ulrika. As a criminal defense attorney, she provides a unique perspective on the proceedings of the court and slowly but surely reveals her intricate plan to save the daughter she has spent her adult life grasping to understand. Ulrika’s ambition may get her in trouble once again as the stakes in her subversive plot are impossibly high…

Who killed Christopher Olsen, and why? In this break-out thriller, dazzling storyteller Mattias Edvardsson weaves a web in which everyone becomes entangled and nothing is what it seems. The story of a crime and of one family’s undoing is told through an unusual three-part structure that keeps the reader guessing. Everything you thought you knew is turned upside down as the perspective shifts, a new voice takes over, and fresh shadows are cast into the light.

A Nearly Normal Family is an exceptionally constructed thriller that asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect those you love? And is it ever justified to kill?

“An excellent Swedish courtroom thriller.”
Jyllands Post (DK)

“A believing father, who has always wanted to do what is right without any mistakes, must begin to question his faith and sense of what is right to save his child. […] The pastor must act against his own ethics, while the mother, a defense attorney, must act against her own honor code.”
Kaleva (FI)

“Quite simply, it’s a unique and radiant plot – a family drama about relationships, stories and secrets with the walls of a home. How far will you go to protect your loved ones, are you ready to cross your own boundaries, what comes first; ethics and moral … or your family? The novel is extremely well-written and it catches your eye, it was impossible to stop before reaching the final page.”
Beach’s Books (DK)

“M.T. Edvardsson’s page-turner, which is also translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, is told in three parts, three voices and three perspectives, one for each member of the titular family, and it peels away the compromises we make with ourselves to be the people we believe our beloveds expect, revealing just how flimsy those pretenses can be.”
The New York Times (US)

A Nearly Normal Family is a uniquely organized and engrossing read.”
Newsweek (US)

“A taut blend of legal thriller and domestic tale of suspense.”
The Seattle Times (US)

“[The novel] addresses how far parents will go, morally and legally, to protect their children. […] First Adam, then Stella, and finally Ulrika, offer narratives about what happened and their assigned roles within this ‘nearly normal’ Swedish family.”
The Star (US)

“Edvardsson’s precise understanding of human behaviour and the lies we tell to save those we love makes for a potent legal thriller.”
BBC (UK)

“As dad, daughter and finally mother tell their stories, all the passion, fear, disappointment, lies and rage of family life unspool into a tense courtroom drama that holds on to its secrets to the final page.”
The Times (UK)

“A brilliant and clever story.”
Review in Prima Magazine (UK)

“About to conquer the world.”
Adresseavisen (NO)

“Edvardsson is a master of suspense, and digs deep into the inner workings of the family. He has written an impressive page turner about three people in crisis.”
Stavanger aftenblad (NO)

“‘We were a perfectly ordinary family,’” insists Adam Sandell, a pastor and one of three narrators in Swedish author M.T. Edvardsson’s involving, sharply written A Nearly Normal Family […]  Diagramming how things went awry is one purpose of Adam’s lengthy monologue, which takes up a large chunk of this shrewdly constructed story. […] When Stella takes over the narrative, she proves to be more than a shrewd observer of her own predicament. […] Stella transforms the novel’s events, and then her mother, herself a lawyer, gives this surprise-filled saga its final turn. Mr. Edvardsson, whose Swedish is translated here by Rachel Willson-Broyles, is a fine stylist. A Nearly Normal Family, the author’s first book to be published in this country, is a compulsively readable tour de force.”
THE Wall Street Journal (US)

“It’s not often that you have a stomache-ache when reading a suspense novel. Usually, the plot is far from one’s own life, so that you’re able to be frightened in a pleasant and comfortable way. In this case, you’re stuck in a state of true unease. The parents’ anxiety is contagious. You grow mad of all that is left unsaid, the lack of communication and trust. At the same time, you understand the characters involved. They are human, through and through, and victims of their own shortcomings as well as the inequality of society and the legal system. Simply put, Mattias Edvardsson writes with impressive psychological drive. The portrayal is so convincing that it feels as though a close friend is caught up in the story. The plot is so skillfully constructed that you don’t find out how it ends until the very last pages  – and then it surprises in every possible way. On top of that, there is a much needed and important critique of the arbitrary way that abused women are treated by the legal system. But, most of all, one is left with a alarming sense of how vulnerable life is.”
NORRA SKÅNE (SE)

“Mattias Edvardsson has a unique story to tell, about the helplessness of parents in the face of their own children, in the face of one another and of themselves. You meet. You fall in love. You get married and and have children (if you’re lucky). It doesn’t quite turn out the way you imagined. And years later, you look back and realize that all your actions, the ones that seemed right in the moment, led to something completely different. You’re not even the person you imagined. […] Perhaps it’s the chronicle of the mundane that fascinates the most in A Nearly Normal Family. That feeling that stems from parents and children looking at each other and thinking: ‘You don’t know who I am. What do you think of me? And what do I think of myself?’”
Lotta Olsson, Dagens Nyheter (SE)

A Nearly Normal Family is endlessly thrilling about the turbulence surrounding a family that’s crumbling, and the secrets that have been laid bare. Is nothing what it seems? Mattias Edvardsson has written a deeply moving psychological thriller with many layers and many questions, and with answers that surprises.”
Smålandsposten (SE)

This is a real page turner. […] The book is structured in a way that gives us the father’s, the mother’s, and the daughter’s stories in separate parts, and the truth is revealed piece by piece. A perfect summer read on the beach.” 
AFTONBLADET (SE)

“It’s a multilayered, elegantly written story about guilt and young women’s vulnerability. I’m hooked from the very first page. Edvardsson is a master of depicting psychology. The talk of the summer!”
AMELIA (SE)

“Mattias Edvardsson captures the three seperate voices with great sensibility – the anxious pastor, the weathered attorney, and the daughter who is one hundred percent teenager […] Who is telling the truth is less important; rather, the burning question is what you are willing to do to protect your loved ones. None of the members of the family can be trusted. -these three perspectives make the thriller stand out.”
SYDSVENSKAN (SE)

A Nearly Normal Family is a grain of gold among this year’s books.”
johannasdeckarhorna.wordpress.com

“It’s a book that shows how little you know about those you hold dear, and it puts the very definition of the word loyalty to the test. It’s well written, smart and suspenseful novel and, to use a terribly worn-out-phrae, a real page turner. I recommend it!”
vastmanbok.blogspot.com

“What seemed so obvious at first turns into something completely different. Things are always lurking under seemingly perfect surfaces and in this story you won’t know what’s what until the very last page. Just read it. Writing about it won’t do it justice, so just read it!”
vargnattsbokhylla.blogspot.com

“If Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito was the most talked about title of 2016, then this year belongs to Mattias Edvardsson. The book is so crazy good, reading it makes me euphoric.”
Ihyllan.blosgpot.com

“A Nearly Normal Family is a relationship drama that gives rise to many ethical questions. It’s enormously suspenseful until the very end, and the ending knocked me out completely.”
justnujusthar.com

“It’s feels true and honest. The feelings are real and it’s easy to identify. […] Well written, elegant, simple and so substantial […] This is a book about love, youth, relationships, friendship, marriage, family and life while its happening.”
erikasbokprat.blogspot.com

“In short: A Nearly Normal Family is one of the highlights this summer.”
boktokig.blogspot.com

“An incredibly well-written book about family, truth and lies, spirituality, veneer, love, contempt… everything’s in here and it’s impossible to stop reading. I carried it with me everywhere, even on days when I knew that I wouldn’t have a minute left for reading – just in case! […] Edvardsson is a master of telling a thrilling story that never becomes predictable or feels made up.”
annzah.com

 

“Mattias Edvardsson has written a deceptive and riveting novel. A Nearly Normal Family will make you question everything you know about those closest to you.
KARIN SLAUGHTER, AUTHOR OF 18 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLERS

“A Nearly Normal Family is a brilliant thriller, another masterpiece of Scandinavian noir. It is riveting as the complex plot unfolds layer after layer and twists the well-drawn characters to a startling conclusion. This is crime fiction at its best.”
Linda Fairstein

“A Nearly Normal Family is a canny, intensely suspenseful legal thriller. A 17-year-old young woman is accused of murdering a 32-year-old man, provoking a crisis for every person close to her and challenging the commandments of the law as they confront the bonds of love and family life.”
Scott Turow

A Nearly Normal Family is one of those very special books that combine an utterly compelling premise with wonderful writing. The characters, who find themselves trapped in the ultimate moral dilemma, are so achingly real that one holds one’s breath with them. This is a layered, intelligent novel that will force any parent to consider exactly how far they would go to protect their child.”
Fiona Cummins

 

Mattias Edvardsson is a writer and teacher from Trelleborg, Sweden. His psychological suspense novel A Nearly Normal Family was published by Forum in the summer of 2018 and has gone on to become a major bestseller.

Learn more about Mattias Edvardsson