I enjoyed The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher more than expected. I think I’d assumed there would be some laborious backstory that resulted in Juno going to live with the Crouch family. That she obsessively idolised them in some single-white-female-stalker way (which she only does a little) or she’s coerced or kidnapped or similar.
But that’s not at all the case. And the circumstances involved are probably one of the best parts of the plot. Certainly NOT expected; something I didn’t see coming.The Wrong Family
by Tarryn Fisher
Published by HQ Fiction
Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch.
Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore.
Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel…
She shouldn’t get involved.
She really shouldn’t.
But this could be her chance to make a few things right.
Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too.
The book unfolds from the points of view of Juno – in her late 60s and a former psychologist who’s only fairly recently relocated to Seattle; and Winnie – a wife and mother to a teenage boy.
It opens in the aftermath of a fight between Winnie and her husband Nigel, as Juno is gingerly picking her way through shattered glass in the kitchen. Remnants of something being thrown or dropped the night before.
I liked that Fisher drops us into the middle of the action as it allayed my fears of a lengthy introduction or courting between Juno and the Crouch family. Instead their relationship is quite vague. We learn that Nigel has built an addition onto the house to rent out because of money issues. So them coming together seems entirely without guile or design.
It occurred to me I was spending quite some time trying to figure out who the ‘bad guy’ was between the always-sparring Winnie and Nigel. Juno seems to obviously be on Nigel’s side and describes Winnie as a ‘too-much girl’.
But because we’re in Winnie’s head we know she loves her husband but fears he no longer loves her. And we know she regrets that she picks fights with him and struggles to apologise later.
Juno has the most sympathy however for the couple’s thirteen year old son Sam. He’s confided in Juno so she’s worried about him. We soon learn she’s kinda meddlesome for a therapist – something which got her into trouble in the past – and here she takes it upon herself to try to ‘fix’ things.
As Fisher shares more about Juno’s past it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for her and where she is now. But much of the unfolding plot here is akin to watching the proverbial car crash in slow motion. We readers can see things being misconstrued and misunderstood but powerless to stop it.
I must confess to being fairly shocked by the conclusion. I’m a strong believer in justice being served, in right vs wrong rather than karma or similar. So I felt a little affronted, or perhaps just sad at the lack of closure for all parties.
I very much enjoyed however that Fisher includes a tremendous amount of insight here. Some of it is via Juno’s observations, and I guess that’s the therapist in her, watching those around her when they’re unaware; but there’s also a high level of self-awareness reflected in the characters themselves.
There are several ethical dilemmas and questionable actions on offer here and I note the book includes some questions for discussion so this would be an excellent bookclub selection.
This was certainly a surprise read for me and far more enjoyable than I was expecting – though I’m not sure why. Fisher’s written several other novels so I must seek them out when time permits as I like ‘clever’ psychological thrillers.
The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher will be published in Australia by HQ Fiction in early January 2021.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.