books

If you loved Big Little Lies, you'll want to devour Fiona Lowe's Just an Ordinary Family next.

HQ Fiction
Thanks to our brand partner, HQ Fiction

When it comes to really great book recommendations, there’s no such thing as too many.

Whether you’re a one-book-a-week kind of reader or only find the time to pick one up when you’re on holiday, we’re all looking for the next page-turner to lose ourselves in.

Well, good news, because I found it.

It’s Just an Ordinary Family by award-winning Aussie author Fiona Lowe and I literally devoured it on a recent interstate trip.

Part-Liane Moriarty, part-Jodi Picoult, Just an Ordinary Family is a compelling drama about a seemingly ‘ordinary’ family that implodes after a domino effect of lies, betrayals, disappointments and regrets.

Oh, and it’s set to be the next Big Little Lies.

Set in the small Aussie vacation town of Kurnai Bay, Just an Ordinary Family tells the story of how a series of betrayals rips a tight-knit family apart.

And it starts with twin sisters Alice and Libby Hunter, who despite sharing DNA, couldn’t be further apart.

When we meet Alice, she’s far from where she thought she’d be as a 33-year-old woman. Instead of living in her beautiful Victorian-style Melbourne apartment with the love of her life Lawrence and working at Lawrence’s family’s high-end auction house, she’s back living with her parents in her childhood home,”abhorrently single” (in her words) and working four minimum wage jobs to stay afloat.

She’s also secretly harbouring a 20-year grudge against her older sister Libby, who has always been smarter, more successful and better liked than her. But Alice is used to it. She’s always played second fiddle to Libby. Even in the womb, Alice drew the short straw, coming into the world smaller and weaker, 20 minutes after her typical ‘first-born’, overachieving sister.

Most of us can also relate to having a ‘Libby’ in our lives, the one person who we love, but can’t help but begrudge because it feels like they’re simply better at everything than us. And Libby really is good at everything.

A prominent small-town doctor with a gorgeous husband Nick and two young daughters, Libby has all of life’s boxes ticked. She also has her best friend Jess Dekic, who’s been around the Hunter family for as long as she can remember.

The day Jess arrived at their small town school all those years ago, wearing foundation and eyeliner and a dress far too short, Libby was drawn to her ‘cool girl’ demeanour and unrivalled self-confidence. She knew that’s the kind of person she wanted to be around. To be best friends with. And so Alice went from being a twin to just a sister.

ADVERTISEMENT

For Karen Hunter, raising twins who are so different has always been a struggle. She has always supported them both, but can’t help but feel guilty for Alice’s tough start in life, but also for not believing in Alice like she does Libby.

The dynamic between these four women has always been slightly off balance, but after Libby learns of a deep betrayal, the dominoes of all their lives start tipping over one by one.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but as this family’s mess of lies unfolds throughout the novel, Just an Ordinary Family prompts the reader to ask themselves, can a person come back from a series of brutal betrayals? Betrayals by their families, friends, of their own body and of their entire town?

This tensely negotiated tale of family drama is addictive and unfolds slowly, keeping you turning the page to find out what happens next. The gripping style of writing is a specialty of Lowe’s, who is an expert in penning uniquely Australian novels about real people with real relationships facing difficult choices, just like we all do every single day.

Another core theme in Just an Ordinary Family is the betrayal women feel by their own bodies – how infertility and the grief that comes with it complicates relationships more than you’d think.

It also sheds light on the important conversations we ought to be having with the women in our lives – our mothers, sisters, grandmothers and friends – but aren’t because it’s too painful or we’re ashamed. And in my opinion, the best novels are ones that can keep you entertained, but also teach you something about yourself or the world.

In short, if you love a juicy story about families made up of imperfect people, Just an Ordinary Family is right up your alley.

Is it better than Big Little Lies? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Want to win one of five copies of Just An Ordinary Family? Enter here for your chance!

Just An Ordinary Family is available to buy now at all good bookstores, as well as instore and online at BIG W, Apple Books and in audiobook on Audible.

HQ Fiction

Thanks to our brand partner, HQ FICTION.

00:00 / ???