Stan and Joy Delaney have been married for fifty years. They met in their youth playing tennis, and brought their love of the sport into their family and business, coaching their four children alongside paying customers. All the kids were talented, but none of them made it. Stan’s one close call with coaching greatness crashed and burned when the prodigy dumped him for another coach. The family has its ups and downs, but they’re happy right?
One night a young woman knocks at Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding, after an incident with her boyfriend. The Delaneys clean her up and let her stay, but is she truly just looking for help? Are the kids picking up on holes in her story or are they just jealous about how close Savannah is becoming with their mother?
Later, Joy goes missing. It seems incomprehensible that their father could have had anything to do with her disappearance, but circumstantial evidence starts to add up. Can the kids trust his version of events, especially when he seems so reluctant to talk about what happened? And how did he really get those scratches on his face? Each of the children looks back at their past, their relationships with their parents and their siblings, trying to sort out fact from fiction. All of them trying to answer the question: Where is Joy?
I hadn’t intended to read another book about tennis so close to Carrie Soto Is Back, but I’ve generally enjoyed Liane Moriarty’s books so had to pick this one up when I saw it. I think this is one of her best ones for a while. Her last few have been entertaining enough but seemed more concerned with twists or being clever than telling a compelling story. Whereas this does both. I started it thinking there was no way Stan could have hurt Joy, and then as it went on, and you learn more about what happened the day she went missing, I thought, oh no, it’s gonna be one of those. There’s so much of this that feels light hearted, and loving, watching how the family interact with each other, all the history and sibling rivalries. Then it leans very dark in places too. I loved how we got to see events from different perspectives, and each added another layer of complexity to this family.
It’s also very clever in what it sets up and calls back to later. I really appreciated the little details, and the structure is clever too. It switches back to the previous year when Savannah showed up at their door, and the after effects of that, to now when Joy is missing. Everything is connected, you just don’t know how.
There are also sweeping paragraphs of Joy as a mother that I just massively related to. The day to day drudgery of having kids and all that goes into it. Even though you love them, how hard that is.
She’d never wanted his gratitude, just his acknowledgement. Just once. Because otherwise, what had been the point of her entire life? Of all those lamb chops she’d grilled…Night after night, plate after plate. The laundry, the ironing, the mopping, the sweeping, the driving.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this and it kept me up later reading, which is what I always want from a book.