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The Perfect Family

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About The Book

In The Perfect Family—which has received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist—#1 bestselling author Robyn Harding explores what happens when a seemingly perfect family is pushed to the edge...and beyond.

Thomas and Viv Adler have a picture-perfect family. Affluent and attractive, with two well-mannered kids almost out of the nest, they live in a beautifully restored Craftsman house in a well-to-do neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Their jobs are secure; their children are thriving; the world is their oyster.

Until one morning, when they wake up to find that their house and car have been pelted with eggs. Thomas dismisses it as the work of a few out-of-control kids, but when a smoke bomb is tossed on their front lawn, and the tires on their BMW are punctured, he begins to worry. The family installs surveillance cameras but they show nothing but grainy images of shadowy figures in hoodies. Unable to identify the perpetrators, they are helpless as the assaults escalate. The police assure them that this is just the work of bored teenagers. But no one in the Adler family believes it. After all, each of them has a secret—kept not only from the outside world but from each other.

Seventeen-year-old Tarryn is dabbling in a seedy online world; her older brother, Eli, has dropped out of college and refuses to tell his parents why; and Thomas and Viv have their own secrets that began as harmless fun and relief from the pressures of everyday life, but have grown into something darker and more dangerous. As the Adlers grapple with their guilt, fear, and shame, the assaults grow deadly. Their “perfect” façade is crumbling, and it may be too late for any of them to do anything about it in this addictive and twisty suspense novel that will keep you turning pages until its explosive ending.

Excerpt

1. Vivian Adler: (Viv) Vivian Adler (Viv)
I SAT CROSS-LEGGED in a pool of spring sunshine, my palms pressed together at heart-center. The morning light offered little warmth, but it bathed the bedroom in a flattering glow, and the color palette I’d chosen—muted blues and creams—created a seaside aura despite our suburban locale. My eyes were heavy, but not quite closed, as I breathed through my nose and took a conscious moment of gratitude. It was a thing I had been trying: starting each morning with a grateful heart. According to a podcast I’d recently listened to, being thankful was the key to health, happiness, and abundance.

Thomas was downstairs in the kitchen making coffee with his usual amount of banging and clatter. I tried to conjure some gratitude for my husband of twenty-two years, but that full feeling in my chest, that warmth and lightness, refused to materialize. I loved him, I did. He was an excellent provider, a great dad, and every morning, he got up and made coffee. But it’s hard to be thankful for a man when he’s cheating on you.

I had no proof, just a sick feeling in my gut. Thomas had been distant, distracted, and irritable of late. His job as a real estate agent was always frenetic, he’d always kept odd hours. An affair would have been easy for him. But I’d trusted him… until now. We’d had rough patches before; what marriage hasn’t? But even in our darkest moments, we’d always been a team, a unit. These days, we felt like two solo performers who’d left the band to go out on our own. He was George Michael. I was Andrew what’s-his-name.

It could have been a midlife crisis; Thomas had turned forty-eight in February. Or perhaps something had happened at work. But another woman seemed the most logical explanation. My partner was attractive in a beefy, middle-aged sort of way. He had charm and style, a twinkle in his hazel eyes. I’d seen women flirt with him. Thomas had always acted oblivious, but maybe he wasn’t? I exercised, ate salads, dyed away my grays. But we all know affairs are not about the spouse.

Sniffing his jackets for perfume and checking his collars for lipstick had provided no evidence. If I wanted proof, I’d have to search through his phone and his laptop. But he kept his devices close, protected by ever-changing passwords and facial ID. This was a relief, in a way. I wasn’t ready to deal with the truth. I wasn’t ready to blow apart my family. My entire life.

Abandoning my attempt to be grateful for my husband, I focused on my son, Eli, sleeping two doors down. He was home for the summer, had just finished his second year at the prestigious Worbey College. The sporty little boy with the green eyes and crooked smile was a man now, taller than his father, and the starting goalie for his college soccer team. But he was still my baby and I was grateful to have him home for four months. Or longer.… Eli had recently announced that he was dropping out of school. Thomas was devasted. He had gone to a state college, couldn’t afford to attend an esteemed school like Worbey. We’d made significant financial sacrifices for Eli’s education, and now he was quitting. Thomas had blown up, had accused Eli of being ungrateful, of throwing his future—and our money—away. But our son held firm. He refused to explain his decision, simply saying, “I’m not going back.”

I had insisted that we refine our approach: no more yelling, badgering, or interrogation. We would simply pretend that everything was normal, let Eli have time to process his issues. He had the whole summer to deal with whatever had upset him. And then, when he had, he’d realize that returning to school was his best option. The flicker of warmth elicited by thoughts of my adorable toddler was extinguished by our recent struggles.

There was no point in trying to summon gratitude for my seventeen-year-old daughter. Tarryn was going through the most unlovable of stages. She was sullen and condescending, seemed to consider her father and me (but mostly me) to be irrelevant, ignorant, tone-deaf boomers. (My explanation that we were, in fact, Generation X was met with an eye roll.) Tarryn still got good grades, she seemed to have friends, but my bubbly little girl had transformed into a surly, angry grouch.

But despite our struggles, we were the same family we’d always been. We were all healthy. We had a lovely home. And for that, I was—

“FUCK!”

It was Thomas. My heart jumped into my throat, constricting with dread. It’s not as if my husband never swore, but he never swore at the top of his lungs at seven thirty in the morning. Something was very wrong. I scrambled up off the floor and ran down the stairs in my pajamas. The front door was wide open, and the living area appeared to be deserted. Peeking my head outside, I searched for my chagrined spouse. I folded my arms across my braless chest and stepped onto the porch.

“Thomas?” I called. But he was nowhere to be seen.

He rounded the corner then with the garden hose in his hand. His handsome face was darkened by a scowl.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

He looked up, scowl still in place. “Some goddamn kids threw eggs at the house last night. And at my car.”

That’s when I noticed the shattered white shells littering the driveway, the viscous goop already congealed on our plate glass window. Thomas’s BMW had been assaulted, too, shards of shell glued to the black paint.

“Why?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he grumbled, screwing the hose onto the tap at the corner of the house. “Ask Tarryn. She might know what this is about.” He turned the water on and blasted the side of his car.

I retreated into the house, shutting the door behind me. Tarryn would be up soon. Perhaps our teenage daughter could shed some light on the assault. But Tarryn was seventeen, a junior in high school. Wasn’t throwing eggs a bit juvenile for her peer group? And she’d never had enemies before. She saved all her snarky comments for her family, seemed perfectly pleasant with her friends.

As I climbed back up the stairs, I felt fluttery and agitated. Logically, I knew this was not a big deal. Bored, unsupervised kids roamed the streets in search of mischief on a regular basis. But this had happened at night. While we slept. The master bedroom was at the front of the house, so I would have heard the attack, had I not been in a deep sleep. What kind of parents let their children out after eleven on a school night? And why us? Our neighbors’ houses appeared untouched.

Abandoning my attempt at gratitude, I stepped into the walk-in shower. I was meeting a client at nine, and I didn’t want to be late. My interior decorating company was small but thriving, no longer a “hobby business”—unlike my client’s vegan ice cream shop. Her hedge-fund-manager husband was backing the venture. It didn’t matter that she was entering a saturated market, that ice cream was highly seasonal, or that her downtown location was not ideal. This wasn’t about turning a profit. It was about creating something that was viable, that was hers. I understood that, and I was eager to help.

As I shaved under my arms, I reflected on my own business. It had never been funded by Thomas outright, but I still owed its success to him. I’d been working as a graphic designer (packaging mostly) when he asked me to help him stage his listed homes. I’d always had a flair for décor. And I loved sourcing furniture and unique treasures that would turn an empty or dated house into an inviting home. Word spread about my abilities, and other realtors hired me for staging. When buyers started employing me to decorate their recently purchased abodes, I quit the graphic design firm. My business was doing well, but we still relied on Thomas’s income. I made a fraction of what he did.

Stepping out of the shower, I grabbed a towel off the heated rack. As I dried myself, I still felt jittery and my jaw was tense. It was an overreaction. The appropriate response to one’s house being egged was irritation, not this unnerving sense of vulnerability. I was being ridiculous. But I slipped into my robe and hurried to my bedroom.

My recent closet renovation filled me with instant gratitude. We’d knocked out the wall between the master suite and the small nursery next door. I’d had wardrobes installed allowing me to color-code my outfits. Angled racks held my shoes, cubbies displayed my purses, and shelves showed off my sweaters. In the center sat a small island with several drawers for lingerie, nightgowns, and jewelry. The project had gone way over budget—we were still paying it off—but the results were worth it.

Slipping inside, I shut the door on the sound of the hose running in the driveway. Thomas was still washing away the mess; I didn’t need to worry about him interrupting me. I opened the third drawer of the center island and removed the mishmash of hosiery I kept in it. Then I lifted out the false bottom and set it aside. The secret compartment wasn’t necessary in our safe Portland suburb, but it was the perfect place to keep my treasures: a bottle of deep-plum nail polish; one delicate hoop earring; a metal lighter; a corkscrew; and a small plastic bag filled with tiny blue pills.

I picked up the bag and looked at the pale-blue dots. I wasn’t going to take any; I didn’t even know what they were. But as I fingered my bounty, I felt myself relax.

The feeling of vulnerability slipped away. I was in control.

About The Author

Photograph by Tallulah

Robyn Harding is the author of numerous books, including the international bestseller, The Party, and The Swap, which was an instant #1 Globe and Mail (Toronto) and #1 Toronto Star bestseller. She has also written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family. Visit her at RobynHarding.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RHardingWriter or Facebook @AuthorRobynHarding.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 10, 2021)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982176877

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Raves and Reviews

“Excellent psychological suspense . . . [Harding’s] best so far. . . . This is an excellent cottage weekend book.”
— The Globe and Mail

“Unsettling and darkly sublime, Robyn Harding deftly explores twisted family dynamics and devastating secrets in suburbia in this stunning novel that will shock readers by the final page. The Perfect Family explores a perfect family’s perfect façade, and how even perfect lies can become perfect nightmares. A mesmerizing, compulsively readable thriller, this one smoulders from the first page to the last.”
— CHRISTINA McDONALDUSA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell

“A propulsive, constantly surprising read that both entertains and chills—and makes the reader question whether they really know not only their neighbours, but their own family. From the opening page to the shocking last line, I was hooked.”
— LAURIE ELIZABETH FLYNN, bestselling author of The Girls Are All So Nice Here

“This is a burn-through-it beach read if ever there was one. . . . A classic “things-are-not-what-they-appear” story. In this case, parents Thomas and Viv have nice jobs, a beautiful home and kids. Then one day their shiny life starts to develop cracks as they’re targeted by what they think at first is a group of bored, crummy teen vandals. News flash: It’s not.”
— Vancouver Sun

“Brilliantly layered, fabulously developed, and interesting characters, and twists and turns galore all made for a compelling read I couldn’t put down. Add to that Robyn’s wry wit and dark sense of humour that made me laugh out loud, and this is definitely a summer hit. I loved it!”
— HANNAH MARY McKINNON, bestselling author of Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me

“[A] highly entertaining domestic thriller . . . The brisk plot takes several clever twists before building to a shocking act of violence. Harding is sure to win new fans with this one.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Edgy, diabolical, and completely suspenseful! The talented Robyn Harding peels back the sleek facade of suburbia to show its disturbing reality—and all the dangerous (and sometimes heartbreaking) secrets that even loving families keep from each other. Incredibly cinematic and jaw-droppingly devious, this book will have you turning the pages as fast as you can.”
— HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN, USA Today bestselling author of The First to Lie

“Unforgettable . . . Readers ready for a rollercoaster ride of guilty admissions peppered with red herrings and actual clues pertaining to the crimes committed will read straight to the end. A great choice for fans of Celeste Ng, Gillian Flynn, and Liane Moriarty.”
— Booklist (Starred Review)

“Harding wields deep community ties like a garrote and redefines terror in suburbia. Breathless pacing and an inescapable sense of menace make Harding’s latest an absolute must-read that will scare the hell out of you as only Harding can. This one’s a stunner.”
— P.J. VERNON, author of Bath Haus and When You Find Me

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