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?
“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.”
”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
“A Nearly Normal Family is a grain of gold among this year’s books.”
“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!”
“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!”
”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.”
”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.”
”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.”
”In short: A Nearly Normal Summer is one of the highlights this summer.”
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.”
“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.”
”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!”
”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.”
“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.”
“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.”