All her life, Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead, Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.
Now, Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.
While Wendy lies low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?
Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?
Disclosure: I was sent an advanced copy of A Family of Strangers by TLC Book Tours for review, but this in no way affected my final rating.
I really like Ryan as a character, despite what I’m calling her “younger and lesser daughter syndrome.” I could see how she wasn’t close to a family that seemed to care more about how her older sister was faring, and the reasons her parents treated her so differently came to light in great ways. I enjoyed the evolving relationship between Ryan and her mother, as well as Ryan and her nieces, in general.
I also loved that Ryan tells someone that she works on a true crime podcast not only to help bring justice to victims, but to teach people how to be safe as well. I don’t listen to many podcasts, but I am a fan of true crime shows for this reason. Like Ryan says, it’s not a fool-proof way to spot a psychopath, but it can help you learn the signs and what to do if you suspect danger.
The plot of this story was good, but it was weighed down much too heavily by irrelevant details. I don’t need to spend two pages reading about the details of a man and his home, both of which we will literally never see again in the story.
There were also times where we were taken directly out of dialogue to learn something about Ryan; for example, she’s speaking with someone and all of sudden we’re learning that she was obsessed with the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? when she was younger, solely so she can cleverly say that the person asked her the “million dollar question.” I’m all for learning about a character, but not like that.
There were a couple of interesting twists, but I wouldn’t say they knocked my socks off or anything. Maybe because they came so late in the book, by then I was just looking for a conclusion.
I’m not necessarily someone who needs action for a thriller to be successful, but there is such a thing as too much meandering, which happened for me with this one. I’m pretty sure I skimmed about 30 percent of the book because of details that didn’t matter, passages that were too wordy, or because I was just plain bored. At almost 500 pages, it could have been cut down a lot by better editing (and there was a dire need for commas everywhere, but that’s a whole other thing). Since this was an ARC, I’m curious to see how the published copy looks.
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Page Count: 491