In Nicola Moriarty’s You Need to Know we meet the Lewis family, as they approach the first anniversary of a tragic accident in the run-up to Christmas, in itself a stressful enough time for most families.
Jill’s three grown-up sons mean everything to her. She would do anything for her boys – protect them, lie for them, even die for them.
Then one day she receives an email with the subject line: ‘You Need To Know’. Jill doesn’t want to know. She leaves the warning unread.
But some truths you can’t hide from. Soon Jill will start to wonder if she knows her sons at all . . . How long will these secrets stay hidden? And when they are revealed . . . can Jill’s family survive?
I hadn’t read any of Nicola Moriarty’s books before but this story about an unread email and family secrets appealed to me when I was invited to read it by the publisher. (Not least because the author’s Australian and You Need to Know is set in Sydney, somewhere I long to go. Even if travel’s out for the foreseeable, at least my book choices can take me there.)
It took me a little while to get into You Need to Know but I think that’s to be expected. Nicola Moriarty introduces you to an entire family here and it’s going to take a few chapters before getting them all straight in your mind, as you get to know them. And there are always some you’re going to click with more than others. You’ll have your own favourites but I especially liked Darren, struggling to get over his ex who is back in his life with a big ask, but also trying to find a way to keep someone new in his life and dealing with a bad case of writer’s block. I also sympathised with schoolteacher Andrea, who is trying to make it to the end of term, while having concerns about a neighbour’s kid, something which forces her to reassess her own life choices.
As an aside, I also enjoyed that all three Lewis brothers are writers, enabling Nicola Moriarty to explore sibling rivalry and how that impacts upon their family dynamic. (It seems particularly mischievous when you realise she’s one of three author siblings herself, along with sisters Liane and Jaclyn.)
Thanks to the prologue, you sense there may well be trouble ahead for the Lewis family. Matriarch Jill and her three grown-up sons and their families have experienced loss over the past year but initially seem like a close enough family to weather that together. However, the more you get to know them, the better you understand that things are not as healthy as they first appear. The family members all harbour secrets, which are indicative of both personal weaknesses and relationship flaws. As each hairline fracture appears, you wonder which has the potential to crack everything wide open and leave this family shattered. And that’s even before you consider what that unopened email might have to say.
The fraught run-up to Christmas and Jill’s insistence on the family getting together at their holiday home, on the coast further north of Sydney, despite the reaction it provokes in some family members because of its association with events of last year and the fast-approaching first anniversary, give you the sense that this family is hurtling towards something even more devastating that what they’ve been through already. This impending sense of disaster is heightened by having Jill’s increasingly desperate letters interspersed with Christmas Eve events throughout the novel. Nicola Moriarty further compounds the effect through carefully peeling away layer after layer of secrets until we’re finally able to get to the core of the matter and understand what lies at the heart of this family and their issues.
Nicola Moriarty plunges you straight into their story and this rapid immersion into Lewis family life instantly made me feel as if I were a part of their family. Admittedly, I was having to get to know them on the hoof but this, all while trying to piece everything together as it was unfolding and imagine just what that email might contain, made for a fast-paced and involving family drama. You Need to Know will pull you through a whole cycle of emotions as you hurtle towards its conclusion, equal parts concerned for and raging at the family members taking you along with them, yet thoroughly invested in whether or not they survive it. I enjoyed this one very much indeed and plan to read more of her books.
You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty is published by Michael Joseph, a Penguin Books UK imprint. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in paperback. You can find it at Amazon UK (affiliate link), Bookshop.org, Hive or Waterstones. For more on Nicola Moriarty and her writing, check out her Author Website, Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram or on Twitter.
Thank you to Sriya Varadharajan at the publisher for sending me a review copy.