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Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
816 reviews12.7k followers
July 28, 2019
“We were a perfectly ordinary family, and then everything changed.”

A Nearly Normal Family is a tautly written psychological thriller about an 18-year-old girl accused of murder. Her seemingly perfect parents will do whatever it takes to protect her, even if it means destroying their family.

18-year-old Stella is accused of murdering her lover. Her father, Adam a pastor, and her mother, Ulrika a high power attorney, are determined to free their daughter. Doing so forces them to come to terms with who they really are, exposing their flaws and crumbling their carefully crafted facade of a perfect family.

The narrative is broken up into three parts, and each part is told by a different perspective: The perfect father, the rebellious daughter, and the strong, powerful mother. Each shift in perspective is jarring--just when you think you understand these characters, the way others view them opens up new understandings of their skewed sense of reality.

Some readers have complained that Adam’s story (part one) moves too slowly, but for me, it was one of my favorite parts of this novel. I found his character fascinating, especially seeing how his warped self-perception leads him to unravel.

A Nearly Normal Family is a slow-burn character study. It is not an action-packed read. While the mystery was interesting, the intriguing characters and shifting perceptions of reality kept me glued to the pages. What I loved most about this book was how it played with the truth, especially the idea of truth, exposing the many different sides of one's understanding of reality.

I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway!
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,130 reviews3,715 followers
May 2, 2019
This book just didn’t work-out for me the way I‘d hoped.
I read some fantastic reviews and was anxious to dig into this one, but for some reason it just never “clicked “with me.

Stella is seventeen and enjoying as much time as possible with her best friend Amina. Their carefree days are growing short as they both begin the journey into adulthood. Stella is off to Asia for her trip of a lifetime, while Amina plans to start medical school.
Everything goes sideways when Stella sneaks back into her parent’s home late one night, her clothing covered in blood.

How far would you go to protect the ones you love? Your children? Your spouse? Your own reputation?

Told from multiple POV I found this book to be repetitive, to the point I felt I was reading the exact same paragraph word for word, over and over.
This book is translated to English and perhaps as they say, something got "lost in translation”.

As the story-line plays out there is definitely a build-up in tension as truths are weighed against lies. And thankfully, I did have my wow moment at the end!
I may be in the minority here. There are some fantastic reviews, so I hope it works out better for you!

A buddy read with Susanne!

Thank you to NetGalley, Celadon Books and M.T. Edvardsson for an ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
May 17, 2023
3.45 so it cannot rounded up 4 , stays as 3 (I’m merciless grader, if I would be a real teacher, my students could detest my guts!) psychological, legal, who is innocent, whodunit, why all the characters are so irritating stars!

Firstly I wanna confess that I adore Swedish and Scandinavia thrillers so much. I think it’s all about the geography, the hard conditions of the weather create harsher, tougher, quick thinker, merciless people who are so good to open the gates of dark side. So they call it `Nordic noir` and there are so much amazing examples of brilliantly written Swedish thriller books( I’m not only talking about most famous Millennium series) such as “Echoes from the dead”, :Let me in”, “The Engelsfors Trilogy), `Kurt Wallender” series.

So as soon as I heard about this book and read the blurb, I was so excited to dive in without thinking of it any second! Result: Not so good but not so bad either.
I think as like the name of famous Sophia Coppola movie, we got LOST IN TRANSLATION. Of course it’s not google translation which results with your big laughs as soon as you read words! But I think some layers, psychological depth of character analysis, the reasons of the characters’ motives and curiosity element of the book were a little chopped when it came to full translation which annoyed me.

There were three main characters are also the members of an ordinary family. They were nothing like ordinary or lovely or a perfect example of family. This is not about being dysfunctional and less communicative . All of the members of the family are selfish individuals with heavy issues.

The father, pastor, Adam has controlling issues and paranoid, human liar detector ( interestingly he couldn’t find out the secret relationship of her wife and all the secrets she kept from him so he’s only obsessed with his daughter!)

The wife, Ulrika, workaholic lawyer, gets jealous about the close relationship between her husband and her daughter, starts drifting apart from them and having a relationship with her colleague.

The daughter, in prison for murder trial, Stella, has authority and anger management issues, shows symptoms of a sociopath, sexually abused, wild, rebel. She has no idea what to do what her life so she dreams to run away to Asia( getting of rid of the pressure or maybe her overprotective family members!)

I think Amina, best friend of Stella steals the show from dislikeable family members. (Even Ulrika connects better with her than she does with her own daughter.)

When you read three points of view, your guessing about the murderer changes directions. You get confused, you think what the heck I’m doing here, I burned the dinner when I was reading this and hated my takeout, but I’m still having no idea how this is going to end! ( At least my husband is happy, he hates my cooking!)

My problem is with characters. I couldn’t resonate, connect with them or empathize them! I got their reasons behind their actions but there’s still something missing! I thought I’m gonna read something about the strong willed parents who try to save their child from harm but they did nothing about her rape when she was 15 and Ulrika’s tactical game to save her daughter ( also save other mother’s daughter) is mathematically right movement but when it comes to criticize the emotional levels of being a mother , this book completely fails!

The ending is nerve bending but smart and satisfying, at least the conclusion is well-developed.
As a summary, I loved three dimensional, fast pacing, unputdownable story telling but I have problems about the characters, some lost interpreting after the translation and functionality of family member relations.

I still haven’t found what I was looking as like U2’s song but I’m still excited and hopeful to read more Nordic noirs and thriller books sooner.
Profile Image for Tammy.
524 reviews441 followers
March 30, 2019
Celadon should be to commercial fiction what Kleenex is to tissue. In other words, this imprint should be a brand name. I haven’t read everything they’ve published but what I have read has been outstanding. These folks know what they’re doing.

A Nearly Normal Family is not your average legal thriller. There is a murder, a trial and we don’t know who-dun-it but the family dynamics play an even greater role. The story is told in three parts from each member of a small nuclear family: the controlling father who is a pastor, the rebellious teen, and the emotionally and frequently physically absent mother who is a successful attorney. The story moves back and forth through time but the plot is sequential. Would you shatter your moral and ethical codes of conduct to protect your child?
Profile Image for Debbie.
456 reviews2,905 followers
July 27, 2019
A slow burn that's hot… 4.5, rounded up

I usually don’t like slow burns, but this crime drama had a fire that warmed me right up. Did the nearly normal daughter commit this heinous crime? Did the nearly normal parents act normally?

Here is what the husband said about their lives:

“On Monday nights, my wife went to yoga and on Thursdays I played tennis. We had a mortgage, which we dutifully made payments on; we sorted our trash and used our blinkers and kept to the speed limit and always returned library books on time.”

Even though they sound sort of anal (or goody-two-shoes?), with the speed limit and library-book-returns business, they really are normal as all get out. Until their daughter is accused of murder! We get the dad’s story, then the daughter’s, then the mom’s. The different perspectives on the same situation kept adding more depth to the characters and more excitement to the plot. It’s all told in first person, which I like because it makes the characters seem so real, like they’re personally letting me in on their secrets.

I wasn’t wowed by the first section, which was the dad’s. He was a sympathetic character, and I felt his pain (which is the most important thing, actually). But he was a little too predictable and a tad boring. His conflicts and his behavior were just, well, nearly normal—even the thing he did that was supposed to be a big deal (I’m being vague on purpose here). He seemed sort of whiny, and he repeated stuff. He reminded me of the dad in a book I loved called Defending Jacob—maybe a little too much, in that I’d heard it all before. One thing that did work was this: he made me so so curious to find out what his daughter was like. Was she nearly normal? Or was she a psychopath? What were her secrets? I mean, all teenagers keep secrets, but were hers especially bad, or even evil?

I was so jazzed when he shut up, because next I got to hear directly from his daughter, who was in jail. (Cool transition by the author.) Let’s hear what she has to say! What was she really like? Was she capable of killing someone? I got busy comparing what she said to what her dad had reported about her, trying to figure out whether his worries were justified, trying to size her up. It was hard not to get attached to her, even though I didn’t know if she was guilty or whether she was someone I should be attached to. I loved this section completely. I liked how she didn’t tell the whole story—I had to wait until the end to find out what really happened. And it was a clever surprise!

The mom’s story took up the last section of the book, and that’s where we got riveting courtroom scenes. I’m not always crazy about courtroom dramas, but here the scenes were perfection. Good lawyers, good questions, good answers, and no confusion (no new players whom I had to get to know at the last minute). I was pretty much on the edge of my seat by this time. I liked the mom’s story. She was angsty, but it didn’t get old. Hearing from her was a treat after hearing about her second-hand from her husband and daughter. She was much more complex than I had thought.

This is a crime drama with depth and soul. The characters are all introspective and don’t cut themselves any slack. I love it when characters think so much about what they’re doing and how it affects everyone else; it elevates the mystery, makes it ten times better than a flat whodunit. The author did a great job showing us the complex family dynamics—the dysfunction and the love, the secrets and lies, the doubts. It perfectly captures the pain and guilt of being a parent, and drills home how you just don’t ever know what your teenagers are doing. They do have a secret life—you just have to hope it’s not an evil or dangerous one.

Editor twitches: Once, info was presented twice, several pages apart. Editor, editor, where are you? And there was an incident at jail that was just dropped. I desperately wanted to hear what happened afterward.

The author is Swedish; I thought the translation was good. It was fun to see how the justice system works in Sweden. It wasn’t totally different from what we have in the U.S., but different enough to make me stop and ponder. Need to check out whether this author has other books that have been translated.

Final verdict: A really good read. A fantastic character study and a cool and satisfying courtroom scene. Great for people who want a meaty whodunit or who want a good family drama. Funny, this is the second literary crime drama I’ve read this year—Miracle Creek is the other. Both had teenage girls in the mix and both had courtrooms. I loved both books, but right this second I think I liked A Nearly Normal Family a little bit better. It’s close, though. Read both, is what I say; neither will disappoint.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,325 followers
August 1, 2019
4.5 stars!

Kept me highly intrigued and guessing from start to finish!

Eighteen-year-old Stella’s father is a pastor. Her mother is a criminal defence attorney. They paint the portrait of the “picture-perfect family” until the day Stella is arrested for murder. How could she be connected to an older mans brutal death? Stella’s parents are devastated as she is held in prison awaiting her trial. They do whatever they can to support their daughter.

This novel is told through three interesting perspectives: Stella, her father and her mother. With each perspective change, I felt a deeper connection to the story. The narrative pace and flow kept me curious and edgy, my mind continually whirled with possibilities of how it would all come together.

This book came with a lot of hype and it definitely lived up to it for me. There were several times I thought I had it all figured out, but I was wrong every single time which kept the thrill strong.

This was a Traveling Friends read with a fantastic discussion! To find our reviews, please visit our blog at:

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC to read and review!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
August 16, 2023
Apparently, Legal Thrillers are something I am into now, because I f*ing loved this!!

I listened to the audiobook and feel it was brilliantly cast and narrated. I definitely think that helped to influence my overall opinion on this story.

I thought the format was so clever. The three perspectives were presented in separate chunks as opposed to alternating back and forth. I am not sure I have ever read a book that was arranged a narrative in that way.

It began with The Father's perspective. Adam, a family man and pastor, tells his side of the story. He talks mainly about the relationship with his eighteen year old daughter, who is now being held in police custody accused of a brutal murder.

He fills in a large part of the narrative and you think you have a fairly good handle on the overall story.

Then we get The Daughter's perspective. Well, she would know out of everyone what really happened, she was there. The events happened to her.

But as I love, Stella, is a deliciously unreliable narrator, who openly admits to her outstanding ability to lie to and manipulate others.

Her perspective answers some questions and of course, creates some new ones.

At this point, I was thinking a lot about how two different people can experience the same things and interpret those events completely differently.

It's fascinating to think about. I love this type of psychological examination of characters.

Lastly, we get The Mother's perspective. Just when you think you have a super firm handle on the events in question, you discover there's so much more going on.

Stella's mom, a high-powered attorney, knows how the system works and she'll do anything in her power to protect her little girl.

While I can see how some Readers may find this slow, or possibly choppy, I had absolutely no complaints about the writing, or the format.

I was hooked into this story from the very start and loved how much it made me think outside of the reading experience itself.

Overall, a huge fan of this, recommend to anyone who enjoys a legal, or crime drama. Would absolutely recommend the audiobook as well!
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,486 reviews79.1k followers
June 8, 2019
Book of the Month choice for June 2019

3-3.5 STARS

I can see why this slow burning legal thriller is garnering loads of hype; it's the perfect example of a steady building of suspense that explodes into a tantalizing climax that, for my part anyway, I didn't quite see coming. Based on this alone, I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to readers searching for a substantial thriller full of meaty characterization and deep introspection into family dynamics and secrets. My issues mainly stemmed from the fact that the translation here seems to be a bit choppy and unlike some of the smoother books I've read in the past, which is clearly personal preference, but may be helpful to the picky readers like me who may be a bit more difficult to please. Overall, a wonderful and somewhat unique addition to the scandi noir genre, and an author I'm looking forward to seeing more from in the future.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews944 followers
April 28, 2019

"What is a lie? Just as there are different sorts of truths, there must be different sorts of lies. White lies, for example - I've never shied away from those. Better a kind lie than a hurtful truth, I've always thought.

But of course, this was different."

This is a complex multi-layered domestic drama that kept me chewing my cuticles until the very end.

Every character in this book is lying.

A pastor and father
A lawyer and mother
Their teen daughter and murder suspect
And a best friend

Each lying to law enforcement, lying to each other and to themselves in an effort to protect someone they love, to preserve a family portrait that had begun to crack well before the current dilemma and to ultimately protect themselves.

This story is rife with ethical quandaries that gave me pause on more than one occasion to consider what I might do if presented with the same circumstances.

To loosely quote Shakespeare...

"I would tell lies like truth."

I'd love to find out what happened when all of the lies were finally exposed. There is a whole other story within this book and I could totally get into a sequel.
No lie.

4.5 Stars rounded up ⭐

Thank you to Celedon for sending me a copy of this book and for the digital ARC as well. All opinions are my own. I swear.

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,714 reviews25k followers
March 26, 2019
MT Edvardsson writes a compelling psychological thriller in the dark and disturbing Scandi-Noir tradition which gives the reader insights into Swedish law. Set in the small Swedish city of Lund, a highly respectable and upstanding local family, Adam, a Church of Sweden pastor, his wife, Ulrika, an ambitious go getting criminal defense lawyer, are horrified and shocked when their strong willed, volatile teenage daughter, Stella, is arrested on suspicion of the brutal murder of a wealthy shady older businessman, Chris. Stella, and her best friend, Amina, had met Chris a few weeks previously. The narrative is delivered from the perspective of Adam, Ulrika and Stella, where the focus is less on crime, and more on a character driven study of dysfunctional family dynamics of a 'nearly normal' family.

In a complex and multilayered story, we find out more about Adam, Ulrika and Stella, how Adam's expectations of Stella and Ulrika's intense focus on her career has resulted in a poor relationship with their daughter. We learn of Stella's rape by church camp counselor when she was 15, and Adam's dark obsession in Stella's personal life. The narrative goes back and forth in time to give us a picture of the family through time. In the present, convinced of Stella's innocence, Adam decides to look more deeply into the murder, as his life begins to increasingly spin off the rails. The trial is a riveting affair, in this suspenseful tale with some surprising twists.

This is a psychological thriller of morality and ethics, family, that asks how far will parents go to protect their daughter? There are the requisite unreliable and unlikeable narrators, secrets, and a web of lies and deceit that surround a normal Swedish family. Edvardsson highlights how people are defined by life's trials and tribulations, and questions the concept of a 'normal' family. This is an absorbing read, my favourite part was the trial. This novel is for fans of Scandi-Noir and crime fiction. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.8k followers
May 4, 2020
A Nearly Normal Family examines the three members of the Sandell family when daughter Stella is accused of murder. In the aftermath of her arrest, Stella, along with her father, a pastor, and her mother, a defense attorney, must each dig deep down inside and examine what lengths they are willing to go to protect their family.

First, the good: I found the writing style to be engaging throughout, and felt compelled to keep turning the pages. I thought the subject of the story is interesting, and I was curious where the author would take it. For most thrillers, the focus is on what really happened, but I don't feel that's the crux of this story. What really happened is almost an afterthought. Instead, we spend the majority of time scrutinizing and exploring each of the three main characters, their thoughts, their morals and ethics, and how far they will go to protect each other.

Now for what I didn't like: The characters are all so unlikable, not just a little, but a lot. This was probably the biggest hindrance to my enjoyment of this story. The father is paranoid, has boundary issues, and suffers from my-child-is-perfect syndrome. Stella is extremely spoiled and bad-tempered. And as for her crime, her parents did not question or care as to their daughter's guilt. They wanted to save her regardless of whether she killed another person or not. The story is told from their three alternating perspectives, so it was really hard to hang in there while they complained, acted crazy, and supplied endless odd justifications for what they were doing.

It's also a really long story for the amount of substance that's in here. Each of the three members of the family gets to have their turn to tell their side. Except each person often tells an event multiple times, first with some facts obscured, then again as they reveal what they concealed. And since there are three points of view, it's not usual for the the same thing to be told four or five or even six times. How many different ways can you say the same thing? Many times, apparently.

In the end, I enjoyed the writing, but found the characters to be complete duds. With how dysfunctional they turned out to be, this is more of a family drama than anything else. The theme seems to be that parents will do anything for their children, including lying, scheming, obstructing justice, and harassing others, all to keep their precious baby out of jail, regardless of guilt. If everyone used that logic and got their way, the only people in jail would be orphans. So no, I really can't agree with that.
Profile Image for Holly  B .
851 reviews2,023 followers
June 2, 2019
A murder mystery, some courtroom drama and a family trying to hold it together.

Set in a Swedish city, a respectable family of three - Adam, a pastor, his wife- Ulrika who is a defense attorney and their 18 y/o daughter, Stella. They are about to hit the worst speed bump in their lives. Stella is arrested for murder.

Absolutely loved the narrative that gave the perspective from all three family members. We learn some secrets from their past, how they are dealing with the crime and some actions they took along the way. Some they are surely come to regret.

For me, most of the suspenseful parts were during the courtroom scenes. I wasn't sure how it was going to play out and it felt like I was watching it in real-time. I do love courtroom drama.

I would recommend to fans of family dysfunction/relationships, crime mysteries, and courtroom scenes.

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy. This one is out on June 25,2019 . I think it is also a BOTM pick.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,290 reviews1,332 followers
May 10, 2019
Whose truth is nothing but the truth?

M.T. Edvardsson presents a heavy domestic drama wrapped around the Sandell family. From all indications this is a small, compact little family of Adam, Ulrika, and Stella. As the layers are peeled back, there's quite a bit beneath the surface.

Edvardsson sets his story down within the town of Lund in Sweden. There's a definite pendulum that swings back and forth in regard to their ever changing identities. Adam, a pastor in the Church of Sweden, was once an avowed atheist until his pulled up collar was replaced with the collar of a minister. Ulrika, a dedicated defense attorney, regrets the time spent pursuing her career at the expense of her home life. Stella, intensely complicated, has just turned eighteen and wishes to flee to Asia in a long planned caravan of a trip. All the while, the secrets begin to brew.

Stella and her best friend, Amina, are inseparable. They meet up with what they believe is the typical young man in a typical bar. But Chris Olsen is far from typical. We find out that he's thirty-two years old and has a stalker of a girlfriend. Stella carries on with a summer fling with Chris. But Chris' flinging days will be over soon when he's found dead of stab wounds. Stella is immediately arrested and accused of murder. But did Stella do it?

A Nearly Normal Family has some good moments. Edvardsson takes us in the midst of courtroom scenes with tense questioning. The story is split into three perspectives of the Sandell family with short rapid chapters. But here's where I had issues. Since this was a translation, I'm not sure if some of the momentum was lost within the word transfer. There seemed to be quite a bit of repetition because of it and constant replaying of incidents. I also didn't feel overly invested in any of these characters. But what drew me in was the strong need to know who was actually responsible. Edvardsson keeps you guessing with the gameboard arrow pointing in all directions.

I received a copy of A Nearly Normal Family through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to M.T. Edvardsson and to Celadon Books for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
August 27, 2019
Clever, compulsive, & emotive!

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EDVARDSSON was quite the unique, intense, and fascinating story. I was thoroughly entertained and loved how this story was broken up into three very powerful sections from each of the family members. The first section from the father's point of view started off a little shaky for me but then once I got to Stella's (the daughter's POV) I was hooked. This was such an emotionally gripping story that was absolutely unputdownable! Highly recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Caledon Books and M.T. Edvardsson for the complimentary copy.

This review can also be found on our Traveling Sisters Book Blog:
Profile Image for Sue.
2,731 reviews225 followers
September 8, 2019
This is a domestic drama based thriller that had all the elements I loved.

Mom, dad, annoying secretive daughter.

I had one of the characters under suspicion but just kept wobbling between 50/50.

It’s really rounded and written so well you stroll from page to page with ease, however tension does build that Spurs you on to find answers to your questions.

A lot of the time I was saying “oh....I didn’t expect that”.

I’m definitely following this author for future books. Definitely!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
May 1, 2019
3.5 Stars* (rounded down)

When you live with Dysfunction, you become Dysfunction. Just ask the Sandells. They have it down pat.

When Stella a teenager, is arrested for the murder of a successful businessman, parents Ulrika and Adam are beside themselves. Adam is a Pastor whose whole life has been based on honesty. His daughter’s arrest shakes his belief system to the core. Ulrika is an Attorney. The law is everything to her and success has always come before all else, even her family.

As far as the Sandells are concerned, ethics and morals go out the window when freedom is on the line.

What price would you pay to hold your family together?

Stella is just “Stella” or so her best friend Amina describes her. Sounds intriguing, right?

For me, “A Nearly Normal Family” was a highly intriguing read, which fell just a tiny bit short of all of the hype. The believability police were on high alert throughout which had my eyes rolling quite a bit. Furthermore, I found the writing to be a bit choppy in the way the story was told. That said, I absolutely loved the ending and loved the characters of Stella and Amina! I wish Amina had been more heavily featured as I think she kinda sorta stole the whole show. Though I didn’t love every aspect of this novel, I enjoyed the storyline and look forward to seeing what Celadon Books comes out with next!

This was another fabulous buddy read with Kaceey!

Thank you to Celadon Books, NetGalley and M.T. Evardsson for the complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 4.30.19.
Will be published on Amazon on 6.25.19.
Excerpt to be published on Instagram.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,352 reviews3,007 followers
June 25, 2019
I can't get enough of family dramas and this was one of the better ones I have read recently. I thought the family dynamics were fascinating and the mystery of whether the daughter was innocent or guilty easily sustained my interest.

Stella Sandell is 18 years old and is accused of murdering a man. Stella's father is a pastor and her mother is a defense attorney and both are struggling with the realization their daughter could be found guilty of the crime. The story is told from the perspectives of the three family members.

I absolutely loved how this book opened up as you find out the father is set to testify but even he doesn't know if he will get up on the stand and tell the truth. From that moment on I was hooked. I liked how the book was broken up into three parts, with each family member getting their say.

Without a doubt I enjoyed reading this but by the time I finished I couldn't say I was blown away by the story. I feel like this was the type of book that is a good read at the time but I wouldn't say it is the most memorable story. I give 4 stars to the books I think are very good and save the 5 stars for the ones I think about months after I finish reading. This is a book I don't hesitate recommending though especially if you like books that explore family dynamics and/or courtroom dramas.

Thank you to the publisher and BookishFirst for sending me an advance copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews623 followers
July 18, 2019
When both parents lie separately… and keep it from each other…trying to protect their child...
you gotta wonder about their faith in each other and faith in their child.
Their 18 year old daughter
was in a cell suspected of murder.

Lund, Sweden:
Not having been...
I looked Lund up on Google and drooled over the beauty of the small University town...
where this ‘playground-murder’-suspense story takes place.

When Stella‘s father, Adam Sandell, a pastor, viewed the websites of the evening tabloids, he was forced to acquaint himself with the horrid types of speculation about his daughter.

Stella Sandell’s reputation didn’t look good. She was known as an ADD kid who thought she owned the world. Someone had claimed that she was “a perverted sleazeball”....and there could be no doubt that she had murdered a 32-year-old man, Chris Olsen.
Chris Olsen’s death, was caused by blood loss from penetrating trauma.

On the website there were comments about Adam Sandell, too. “He’s always been weird”.

....The Sandell Family:
Adam,- pastor Ulrika, - attorney
and their daughter, Stella. 18 years old.

....Alexander & Dino
Besic: Friends with the Sandell family.

....Amina Besic: Stella’s best friend: perhaps is lying and was involved with the murder somehow.

....Michael Bloomberg: Public defense attorney for Stella.

....Agnes Thelin: police investigator.

....Jenny Jansdotter - prosecutor: she’s determined to bring an indictment.

....Linda Lokind: ex-girlfriend of Chris Olsen:
claimed she had been raped by Olsen.

....My Sennevall.. a neighbor and witness who says she saw Stella on the playground the night of the murder: twice.

Margaretha Olsen, professor of criminal law...mother of son murdered.

....Chris Olsen: The 32-year-old man found murdered in a playground.

Adam & Ulrika Sandell were frightened, shocked devastated parents.
They tried to stay together - stick together with a couple of their lies...
They each tried
to speculate what really happened the night of the murder.....
sometimes individually and other times together.

Part 1 is narrated by the father: Adam Sandell

“What do you think, with not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, crime and punishment.

Part 2 .... is narrated by the daughter: Stella Sandell..from her cell.

Part 3... is narrated by the mother: Ulrika Sandell
We are also taken into the courthouse- for the trial.

Judge Goran Leijon was known for not just being a competent judge, but also courteous person with great integrity.

“People are prepared to put aside everything in the way of ethics and morals to protect their families”.

Ulkria says: .... of her pastor husband:
“There could be no doubt Adam was prepared to walk through the fires of hell for Stella, but in this case I suspected that his unshakable morals would weigh him down like a burdensome cross on his back”.

Ulrika also says:
“I was full of conflicting emotions. As a lawyer, I was guilty of the most horrific violation of the law one could imagine. As a mother, my choice was the only correct one. I still had no idea what had happened on Friday night, but I knew with certainty that it was my duty to protect my daughter”.

I was pretty sure I knew the conclusion - I thought I had the ending figured out -
... mostly I did... but ...
before the court was about to deliver its deliberation...
we got a very interesting look into the way the legal system works in Sweden...
and how smart people work that system.

I enjoyed this speedy page turner!

3.5 -3.7
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,203 reviews3,052 followers
June 25, 2019
I felt so many things as I read A Nearly Normal Family. The parents of eighteen year old Stella are professionals, with dad Adam being a well respected pastor and mom Ulrika being an attorney. Stella has always been her own person, more likely to rebel against what she is told or is expected of her than to do the right thing. Over the years, as Stella has acted out and rebelled, her parents have tended to make excuses for her or play down her misdeeds, rather than trying to reel in Stella's bad behavior. At some point, the entire family attends counseling and therapy and at times doing so seems to help although each family member thought it was too invasive.

The book starts with a murder trial, with Stella being accused of murdering a 32 year old man. The book is divided into three parts with each part being from the point of view of Adam, Stella, and Ulrika. As upright and moral as both Adam and Ulrika seem to be, we learn where they made allowances, failed to act when they should have acted, and minimized, in their minds, actions that they took for appearances sake, for keeping up their high reputations. It becomes clear that things they did or did not do, over the last twenty five years, helped to lead up to this moment of Stella being on trial for murder.

This is a very slow moving character study type of story and I enjoyed it very much. I'd say my least favorite part was at the end, when we find out all the nitty gritty behind the scenes of what happened during and after the man was murdered. Everyone had a part to play and everyone has secrets and lies that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Thank you to Celadon Books and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Michelle .
913 reviews1,413 followers
July 22, 2019
"It takes a long time to build a life but only an instant for it to crumble."

Imagine that your 18 year old daughter has been accused of murdering a much older and successful business man? What would you do as a parent to protect her? This is what you will be asking yourself as you read A Nearly Normal Family.

"Until so recently, we were a perfectly ordinary family. Now we are prisoners under a merciless spotlight."

Adam, a well respected pastor, and his wife, Ulrika, a successful defense attorney have been put to the ultimate test when they are notified that their at-times unruly daughter, Stella, has been detained on suspicion of murder. Is it possible that their daughter could be so violent as to murder someone? You'll have to read this to find out.

I found this book to be a very satisfying reading experience. The story is told in three parts; that of Adam, Stella, and Ulrika and each adds a different perspective to the situation which I really enjoyed. With each character I waffled between liking them and disliking them but that's what made them seem so human. The epilogue wrapped everything up nicely even if I was correct in my suspicions of what actually happened. M.T. Edvardsson is a talented author that I will plan to keep my eye on.

I need to shout out a big THANK YOU to my girl, Felicia, who was so generous as to send me her copy of this book. *Mwah*
August 22, 2019

A man is brutally murdered and Stella, an 18 yr old teenager is the accused. This slow burn domestic drama is told in three parts, narrated by each member of Stella’s nuclear family. Adam, the father, is an over-controlling pastor, Ulrika, the mother, is a criminal defense attorney who is largely emotionally and physically absent, and Stella is the rebellious teenage daughter.

I liked how each member had their own section instead of switching POV each chapter. But, from the start, something felt off about the writing style, with awkward, choppy sentences. I assumed it was a problem with the translation and decided to continue on.

The blurb says the family’s moral compass is tested as they must decide how far they will go to protect their child. A nearly normal family? Not in my world. This was a totally messed up dysfunctional family where the parents have checked out, excused all bad behavior, and allowed their daughter to do whatever she wanted, including dating/spending the night with a 33 year old man. From what I could see they didn���t have a moral compass to test.

Then the story switched to Stella’s POV. I loathe teen narrations that are filled with drama and angst. And this has a LOT of drama and angst. The only thing I liked about this section is she discovers a love of reading while in prison.

The third section was told from the mother’s POV and covers the trial. I love courtroom drama but this was boring. Instead of being nuanced, it was angsty and repetitive. The ending was telegraphed from the very beginning so nothing was much of a surprise. And of course a hot button social issue is thrown in for good measure to explain everything.

Then there’s the writing. Here are a few examples:

“As if on a bridge spanning the shit that has happened, through a tunnel of brilliant streaming light, I dive right into Stella’s arms.” (….my eyes rolled out of my head)

“I stick to her body like a Band-aid.” (isn’t that an appealing visual?)

“Her hair was wildly mussed like a black halo that had fallen down around her neck.” (huh???)

If these examples appeal to you, then you will enjoy the book more than I did. I found it stilted, awkward and boring.

This was a buddy read with Marialyce. As can happen, she enjoyed the book more than I did so for an alternate opinion please visit her page. For the duo review of this and other books please visit https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
July 29, 2019
A Nearly Normal Family was our July pick for The Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading Group. This one started off seeming like a normal legal thriller here and even though it wasn’t the gripping read I was expecting here there wasn’t anything normal about this legal thriller, domestic/family drama, whodunit and courtroom drama all in one.

Give me a story with a family in crisis and I am all over it. The story did start off a bit slow for me until about 65% in and then things picked up and I was on the edge of my seat turning those pages as fast as I could. I loved the theme here with what seems like a normal family find themselves questioning everything about each other after a crisis leads them protecting the ones they love.

I enjoyed the structure here to the story that is told in three parts with the POV of the father, Adam, the daughter Stella who is accused of murder and the mother Ulrika. I liked how we saw something different with each of their perspective that added some complexity to the story.

M.T. Edvardsson explores just how far this family will go to save the ones they love and gives it a twist that left this reader very happy with the way this one wrapped up. It left me thinking about so many thought-provoking questions and wanting to discuss it with my friends.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher on NetGalley.
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books1,044 followers
April 27, 2019
I enjoyed this novel, which is part family drama, part crime mystery.

The book opens from the first-person perspective of the father, who is a pastor. His eighteen-year-old daughter is being accused of murdering a man fifteen years her senior. Stella has always been Daddy’s little girl, even if she has been difficult these last few years.

The second part of the novel is told from the POV of Stella, who is waiting for trial in prison. She’d always thought Swedish prisons were basically like hotels, but now she knows the cruelty of guards and of being all alone twenty-four hours a day, her thoughts constantly reeling. She misses her long-time best friend, Amina, and of course her parents.

The last part is told from the POV of Mom, a criminal defense attorney. All along, we knew that Dad and Stella weren’t telling the cops (or the readers) the whole story. Now during the trial, the details of how the wealthy Christopher Olsen met his gruesome end are finally revealed.

I did think this could have been shorter. There were twists and turns, and it is nice to have fully developed characters to flesh out the story, but the tension would have been increased if the prose had been tightened. Still, it’s worth the read.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book, which RELEASES JULY 25, 2019.

For more reviews, please visit
Profile Image for Amanda.
903 reviews252 followers
March 23, 2019
Adam and Ulrika seem like a normal family, trying to bring up their teenage daughter Stella to know right from wrong. When Stella is arrested on suspicion of killing Chris Olsen,it comes as a shock to Adam a pastor, who is respected by the community and his hard working Lawyer wife Ulrika.
Quote “It takes a long time to build a life, but only an instant for it to crumble.”

This story is told from the points of view both the parents and Stella. As each one recollects what happened before and after the killing, we really get to know them and discover what they have done to protect their family.

This is a gripping read. I was totally engrossed from start to finish. What would you do to protect you’re daughter? If you’re morale is tested would you pass the test or would you go against all you believe in for family?

A must read book that that will keep you guessing with all the twists. loved the fact that my opinion of Stella changed when it came to her turn to tell her side of the story.

This is an author to look out for!!

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.
January 26, 2023
Bookoutlet read #10 (I think?) 3.5 rounded up.

Writing: 4/5 | Plot: 3.5/5 | Ending: 3.5/5


Stella is on trial for murdering a 35-year-old businessman. Told in three parts, from her father's POV (Adam), Stella's, and her mother's (Urlicka), this novel explores family relationships, friendships, and the consequences of keeping secrets.


Tbh when I was reading this I was like wow 5 stars, and then I got to the mom's pov and was like ok maybe 4, but then after I reflected on this I was like nah 3.5. I had some questions.

FYI Edvardsson's writing is typical scandi style, so if you don't like that, pass on this one. Evidently, I enjoy this particular writing style (I still can't describe it... kind of monotone but there's a certain rhythm to it).

Anyways. The characters were kinda unlikeable, but this was done by design so c'est la vie. At first I wanted to fight Adam (the father) for being so self-absorbed, but he redeemed himself when he crossed several boundaries trying to help Stella. Then I wanted to fight Amina because she's a jealous snitch. Lastly, I wanted to stiff arm Chris Olsen into another universe for being a MEGA creep preying on young girls because he's a loser.

Now I think this book would've been a strong 4 stars if Amina's POV was included. All my questions were about Amina. Why was Stella so attached to her? Why did she feel so responsible for a friend who clearly lied multiple times out of jealousy? Why did Amina even lie to Stella? Did Amina lie about The Big Event? I needed to understand her perspective because she was at the centre of all Stella's conflicts and seemed like a big sneaky snake to me.

Also the mom's POV was mad repetitive. Either shit yourself because of nerves or get it tf together lmao.

Final thoughts: I read this during my 29-hour power outage and I was hooked the entire time but when I sat back and really thought about it, there were too many questions left for me.


Pros: love that Scandi style writing, interesting reading about a religious MC grappling with the truth, Stella's tete a tete with her dad was insightful, Chris died

Cons: too many unanswered questions re: Amina
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,135 followers
July 31, 2019
A well written and consistently thought provoking legal thriller set in Sweden that kept me entertained from start to finish.

How well do you know your family and how far would you go to protect your child are the questions at the heart of this well written novel

An 18 year girl is accused of of murdering a 32 year old man, an ordinary teenager from an upstanding family, her parents Uirika and Adam find themselves in a situation that is the stuff of nightmares and we watch as they frantically try and make sense of this their daughters actions and how they need to proceed in order to do the right thing by their daughter.

This is a slow burn but well written and the author kept me interested throughout, I loved the setting of the story and I really enjoy novels where a court room drama is played out. I enjoy when authors involve the readers in the story and here in A Nearly Normal Familythe author nudges you to examine how you would deal with the problems facing the characters and this was quite interesting.

The story is told by 3 narrators, the girl, the father and the mother and therefore while I enjoyed the format you do find It becomes a little repetitive throughout which really cant be avoided but having said that I really enjoyed the story from these angles as each character has their say.

I listened to this one on audio and really enjoyed the experience as the narrators were excellent.

An entertaining and well written novel that I enjoyed but will I remember it a year from now probably not.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
315 reviews2,418 followers
September 13, 2019

Deep characterizations.
Dark story line.
Dysfunctional family dynamics.
Deliberate, slow burn.

Definitely glad I listened to this one.
Dynamic Audio book!
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,627 followers
May 23, 2020

Many thanks to Celadon Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
”Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. -Romans 12:9”

You know that moment when your entire family is yelling at each other and you think Wow, my family is so far from normal and you wonder if your family will ever be normal. If you have, read this book. Because I can guarantee that your family isn’t nearly as f**ked up as the Sandell family.

A Nearly Normal Family follows the not so normal Sandell family. They may appear normal(ish) at first sight. A pastor, lawyer, and pretty daughter. What’s to criticize. But as many of us know, even the prettiest families have a skeleton or two in the closet.

Stella - I say it every f**king time and if you know me well enough, you know what I’m going to say. I clicked with this character the most. Sassy and rebellious, Stella is an average teenager, or is she? Now, I can’t relate to the rape, drugs and other messes that she gets herself into, for which I am so grateful. I have enough on my plate. What I did relate to was her relationship with her parents and her mental condition. Throughout the book, we get to see every dirty and sometimes happy detail of Stella, Adam, and Ulrica and how they treat each other. Stella goes through what most teenagers do, which is hating their parents. I just wanted to reach into the book and whisper to tell her that she would be okay. (well, as okay as you can be after being tried for murder). I do wish her ADD & slightly psychopathic tendencies had been explored and more blown open than it was but this was a thriller after all.

Adam - Adam Sandell is an Atheist turned Christian. He is now a pastor. He is overprotective and, in my opinion, annoying and self-righteous. I understand helicopter parents and why they are so helicopter-y. That said, I really couldn’t force myself to like him. He just kept digging himself deeper and deeper into the hate section of my heart. Soo

Ulrica - I really don’t have much to say. No, scratch that.

Ulrica was very, very annoying. I don’t really remember anything specific that she did to annoy me but the character has a very bitter taste inside my brain. I got nothing else to say about this b*tch

Let’s go back to Adam for a second. Okay, not Adam. I don’t wanna talk about him anymore. I want to talk about CHRISTIANITY

I love talking about my faith because it used to make me so insecure but now I DON’T GIVE A SH*T ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK. What’s that? You don’t like me swearing?

Anyway, now that my silliness is out of the way... (Just kidding. It’ll never leave.) I really liked the inclusion of faith in this. It’s not something you see often if ever in thrillers. Now, I know there are tons of books that do have Christianity in them. They’re called Christian fiction and, not to offend anyone, but... They suck. Not all of them but most of them. They have a certain feel to them. Kind of like tofu. Anyway, we can talk about CF later. I really loved how the author handled the religion. There was absolutely no shade or disrespect, even though it did feel like the author wasn’t totally for the religion (I may be totally wrong but that’s how it felt.) Now, I poke fun at my faith all the time. And I’m fine if other people do too. I’m always open for discussion but occasionally, people will go past joking and discussion into plain disrespect. That pisses me off. So thank you, M.T. Edvardsson, for being respectful and brilliant in your discussion of religion.

On the note of culture, I really loved the setting being in Sweden! I have never been there but now I kind of want to go. Though it didn’t overall feel that different, there were a ton of small details (like the currency or slang terms) that made the book feel so much more clever inventive!
I also really loved the discovery of what it means to be a family. And while I didn’t like the ending (I’ll go into that in a minute), I still loved that aspect because it always complements the sadness of a thriller so well. Kind of like sweet and salty.

Finally, I want to discuss the mystery/whodunnit aspect. I’ll be honest. It wasn’t anything special. That’s not to say it wasn’t good. It was splendid! But it wasn’t anything I haven’t read before. I think that it was like the bread of the sandwich while the Swedish culture, family and religion were the meats, cheeses, and mayo.

Before I go, I want to discuss the ending.

Overall, this was a really great thriller. I can’t wait to see what this author has planned for the future.

Bottom Line:
4 Stars
Age Rating: [ R ]
TW: Murder, Eating Disorder, Rape
Reps: [Rape Survivor, Mental Illness]
Cover: 4/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 4/5 ~ Audio: ⅘
Publication Date: June 25th, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books, An imprint of Macmillan

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Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.5k followers
September 5, 2019
How far would you go to save a family member? Are there lines you wouldn’t cross?⁣

“It takes a long time to build a life, but only an instant for it to crumble.”⁣

The Sandells seemed like every other family—Adam was a pastor, Ulrika was a lawyer, and their 18-year-old daughter, Stella, caused them some challenges and stresses through the years. But nothing prepared them for how their lives would be derailed when Stella is arrested for murder—the brutal murder of a man in his 30s, with whom she apparently had some sort of relationship.⁣

At times both parents make split-second decisions to try and save their daughter. Is she really innocent? Are they doing the right thing, or are they really enabling her? Will their actions help or harm their family?⁣

Edvardsson pulls the curtain back on this story little by little. First we see things through Adam’s eyes, then Stella’s, and finally, through Ulrika’s. This gives you multiple perspectives on the same events.⁣

There are lots of twists and turns in this book and I wasn’t sure how everything would tie up. The pacing was a little slow but this was a very compelling read.⁣

See all of my reviews at

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at

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Profile Image for Barbara**catching up!.
1,398 reviews804 followers
December 30, 2021
If you love character-based novels, ones that are legal thrillers, or domestic fiction, you MUST read this novel. “A Nearly Normal Family” is one of the best legal thriller novels I’ve read this year (2019). Actually, it was an audible so I heard it and the audible production is suburb.

The story begins with Stella, the daughter being accused of murder. Stella’s father is a pastor and is a parent who feels he’s losing control over his daughter. Stella is turning eighteen and is a bit of a hellion. Stella’s mother is a defense attorney and appears to be less engaged with Stella and a bit more lenient. The story takes place in Sweden, so the legal setting is different than the American justice system. Legalities are explained in detail, so the reader/listener knows the nuisances that can make or break a case.

The pastor is the first narrator. From his point of view, Stella is a handful. He tries to maintain control over her, which always backfires. Stella is the next narrator, and the story comes alive with her point of view. The teen/parent relationship is showcased in this thriller. Finally, the mom get’s her narrating chance. Each character enlightens the reader. As the points of view are explained, the reader changes opinions/judgements.

This would be a fantastic book club read. It’s messy and full of well-intentioned acts that result in chaos. This is a story that questions each of us in how well do you know your child or your spouse. What would you do to protect the ones you love? Does your moral compass have grey areas?

Fabulous story! Well-executed performances in the audible rendition. The only thing I regret about the audible is that I couldn’t turn pages back to see the differences of perspective of the three characters. With a book, the reader can flip back and check the different narratives to see how the characters misinterpreted each other. Nonetheless, a perfect score!
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