Very Nearly Normal by Hannah Sunderland

Very Nearly Normal is a debut novel from author Hannah Sunderland. I picked up a proof copy from the Avon Books team at the HarperCollins ‘Indie Thinking’ event earlier this year. I attended this event that is specifically for Independent Booksellers, representing the bookshop I work in part-time. While I was there, I was on the lookout for a new romance fiction that would be suitable for my community book group, the Mostly Books Cosy Club. I had a hunch that this book might be perfect material, and I’m really pleased to have had my hunch confirmed!

Effie is in her late twenties, living at home and feeling very despondent with her life. In the first few opening chapters, I was quite taken aback at just how negative and pessimistic she is. Hannah Sunderland doesn’t hold back in showing us Effie’s discontent and lacklustre enthusiasm for her friends, family, career and dating.

A chance encounter with Theo, a handsome, blond-haired, chisel-jawed guy, sets in motion a journey of self-discovery for Effie. She gradually begins to confront her attitude to life, jealousy of so-called friends, drinking habit, and relationship with her mum.

There is a great mystery element in this book – things seem to be going so well and then…. [no spoilers!] You know that something isn’t quite right, but the details are subtle and suitably vague. When the twist does come, it keeps you guessing through to the book’s conclusion.

From Effie’s initial gloomy outlook, I really grew to love her character and understand her frustrations. Very Nearly Normal definitely captures that cosy fiction feeling, and I enjoyed coming back to this book each day for a comfort read. I will definitely be introducing Very Nearly Normal to my book group members in the near future.