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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

A Nearly Normal Family

Narrators: Emily Watson, Georgia Maguire, Richard Armitage

ISBN: 9781250221230

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Publication Date: 06/25/2019

Format: Audio

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (ARC)


New York Times Book Review recommends M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family and lauds it as a “page-turner” that forces the reader to confront “the compromises we make with ourselves to be the people we believe our beloveds expect”. (NYTimes Book Review Summer Reading Issue)

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the listener to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life - and one another.

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost 15 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?

Buy the Book

Screenplay: Anna Platt and Hans Jörnlind.

Director: Per Hanefjord.

Cast: Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors, Melisa Ferhatovic, Lo Kauppi and Björn Bengtsson.

The Sandell family is a normal family consisting of the priest Adam, the lawyer Ulrika and their 19-year-old daughter Stella. They live a seemingly perfect life in a polished residential suburb outside of Lund. One day, everything changes when Stella ends up in custody, accused of murder. Her devastated parents don't know what to do. What has happened? They want to help Stella at any cost, but do they really know their daughter? Or each other?

My Review

M.T. Edvardsson's THE NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a Scandi-Noir captivating thriller with a mix of legal, crime, family drama, and psychological fiction.

We meet a "nearly normal" family set in the Swedish city of Lund.

Told from the following POVs:

First Part: Adam—father and a church pastor.

Second Part: Ulrika—mother and criminal defense attorney

Third Part: Stella —daughter and accused of murder

I liked the audio narrator for Adam, and this was my favorite part. Adam is well respected and often naive about his daughter, a daddy's girl. When he realizes the night in question of his daughter may convict her, Adam is not truthful and gives his daughter an alibi. He is controlling and obsessive.

He then starts digging further into the murder and the victim's background.

Stella is not a very nice young woman. In her portion, she tends to lash out at her parents, rebellious and disrespects them. (My least favorite part of the audio). She is strong-willed, wild, a rebel, and has a best friend, Amina. She does what she wants. She had problems with impulse control, explosive anger, ADD, and uses drugs and alcohol.

Stella, at eighteen, is arrested on suspicion of the brutal murder of an older businessman, Chris Olsen. The motive?

They want to help Stella at any cost, but do they really know their daughter? Or each other?

In the past, we learned of a rape by a church camp counselor when she was 15. She had begged to let her dad go. She has anger management issues, shows signs of being a sociopath, and has been sexually abused.

She is now in prison, awaiting trial for the murder.

The last part is the mother's POV, a criminal defense attorney, and a workaholic. What did she know about her daughter? She knows the ins and outs of the criminal system.

The trial and courtroom drama keeps you glued to the pages/audio. In the end, all is revealed and what happened to Christopher Olsen.

My first book by the author. THE NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a complex, multilayered riveting tale with unreliable narrators, character-driven secrets, and family loyalty, with a blending of several genres with twisty surprises.

Crossing moral lines, you will question every character's motives, secrets, lies, and how far they will go to protect those they love. My only issue was no likable characters, so you are not rooting for anyone; however, overall a satisfying legal thriller/Scandinavian noir.

I enjoyed the audiobook narrated by Emily Watson, Georgia Maguire, and (favorite)-Richard Armitage with Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator).

Thanks to #MacmillanAudio and #NetGalley for an ALC in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

My Rating: 4 Stars


New York Times Book Review recommends M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family and lauds it as a “page-turner” that forces the reader to confront “the compromises we make with ourselves to be the people we believe our beloveds expect.”

―New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Issue


―New York Times Book Review Podcast

"Edvardsson ably weaves themes of parental guilt and sacrifice into a nuanced family drama."


“An intense legal thriller that successfully plays realistic, gripping emotion against a shocking legal twist.”


"At its core, A Nearly Normal Family asks: How well do you know your loved ones? Or your best friend? Or anyone? Whom can you trust? Edvardsson doesn't give easy answers, and even throws in commentary about the Swedish legal system when it comes to determining guilt or innocence. But the author raises provocative questions, wraps them up in a propulsive thriller and delivers an ultra-satisfying read that's far from ordinary."

―Shelf Awareness

"Emily Watson, Georgia McGuire, and Richard Armitage complement each other's depictions of a dysfunctional household that is hiding secrets. ...These narrators embody a family that is not so normal after all."

-AudioFile Magazine

"A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a canny, intensely suspenseful legal thriller. A 18-year-old teenager 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, Author of Presumed Innocent and Testimony

“M. T. 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

About the Author

Photo Credit: Caroline Andersson

Name: Mattias Edvardsson

Born: 1977 in Trelleborg

Lives: Löddeköpinge outside Lund

Education: master's degree in literary studies, certified high school teacher in Swedish and Psychology.

What: Full-time writer since 2019. Writes books for adults, youth and children. Travels around Sweden and all over the world and talks about my books and writing.

Likes: text, music, language, popular culture

Background: sang in a punk band, was a coach for a football team in Division 3

Reads: crime fiction and contemporary novels

Listening to: rock

Eats: Italian

Drinks: sparkling water







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