'Tis the season for spooky things like movies, haunted attractions, and decor! Personally, scary movies are too much for me, but I will indulge in a spooky psychological thriller. An example being The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, which has been on my to-read list for quite some time now.
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A few weeks ago, I was at our local library for the baby group with Lydia and they have a little shelf for parents who come with their kids so that there are a few options to pick from there. I noticed The Couple Next Door, which again, has been a book I have wanted to read for a while and picked it up on a whim!
About a year ago, I read another book by Shari Lapena called A Stranger in the House. This book was not one that kept me on the edge of my seat since the husband in the book was pretty dull. Though the ending had a pretty good twist to it, the rest of the book felt predictable.
After finishing A Stranger in the House, I was skeptical about reading anything else by Shari Lapena, but did read many reviews that stated the same things I felt and reassured that The Couple Next Door was much better. I figured I could give this book a try and if I really didn't like it, it was short enough (316 pages) that it would not take very long to get through.
** If you have not read this book, but would like to, you have been warned that there are spoilers ahead!
I did enjoy reading The Couple Next Door more than A Stranger in the House, but I have to be honest, I was still not wow-ed. Though the premise of the book of a baby being stolen out of her crib while her parents are at a dinner party next door is interesting, the middle of the book was still a bit flat for me.
The fact of the couple's baby being stolen was what got me through the book because as a mother, I had to feel like the baby (yes, even a fictional baby) was okay. Every time I picked up this book, I had a hard time not picturing my daughter as the little baby, Cora, in the story.
One big part of the story that I had a little beef with was the fact that the mother, Anne, has postpartum depression and it is made out to be this condition that is shameful and scary. Having dealt with postpartum depression, you can feel shame about it and it can be scary, but the level this book takes it felt like it was not well researched.
In the book, the husband, Marco, is said to be researching postpartum depression and coming across all of these freaky articles about moms harming their babies. When I did an initial search there are only sites on the first several pages are to help and inform, so he would probably have to dig deep into the internet to find as many of these stories that he mentions.
Anne feels this deep sense of shame about having postpartum depression, which I completely understand, but it felt like she was so afraid of everyone finding out, when nowadays it is so common that most people probably end up telling more than just their mother, spouse, and therapist. Girl, your best friends are going to know about your PPD if you have good friends.
We also find out that Anne has a rare condition where at times she blacks out and has hurt people. In my mind, I would feel more shame and anxiety around that instead of PPD. I would also be way more nervous about that sort of episode happening around my baby than being down with PPD. The whole PPD aspect just didn't add up for me and felt like a throw in thing to make the reader doubt Anne when it sounds like she had other things going on that were a bigger threat.
I also did not like the character of Marco. He was in hot water with his business and needed cash so after asking his rich in-laws for a loan and being turned down, he decides to listen to a virtual stranger on a bench in regards to staging an abduction of his own baby...
WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?
I don't care what kind of situation you are in, why would you abduct your own baby and hand her over to someone you barely know for safe keeping for a few days?!? There is no way that any father I know would ever do that. It made me doubt Marco so much cause I feel like you have to be some kind of crazy to be like, "yes, of course, Stranger From the Park! Take my six month old baby so that I can use her for ransom!"
Marco, bro, come on. Sell a kidney, sell your little swimmers, sell a lot of stuff instead of using your kid as ransom!! You have so many options!!
Turns out the whole situation was a ploy from Anne's step-father in order to drain her mom of her old family money and Marco was a pawn in the plan. The whole book her step-father sounded like the biggest dingbat and I hated whenever he came into play. I'm glad he was caught in the end, ridding us of his fictional bad blood!
With this book, whenever I was reading it, I would tell Aaron that I didn't really like the book because I just wanted the baby to be ok. But by-golly, I don't think I liked the book. After writing this review, I think I like it less than I thought. Though the twists in the book were interesting, some of them were also predictable to me. As soon as Marco started talking about upping the ransom money, I knew he was involved and concocted this plan to squeeze some money out of his in-laws.
The only twist I did not see coming was that Anne's step-father was cheating on her mom with their neighbor, Cynthia, who apparently was at one point Anne's friend but once Anne had her baby they grew apart. It was made apparent that Cynthia does not like kids and even tells Anne that she got boring once she had her kid. So Cynthia is obviously on my "wow, what a jerk" list. Anne, girl, you need new friends.
In the end, I feel like The Couple Next Door was just not my cup of tea. I felt like there were parts of the story that didn't feel believable, were over the top, or were potentially not as well thought out as I would have liked. The Couple Next Door was better than A Stranger in the House, but marginally. For me personally, Shari Lapena might just not be my style of psychological thriller and that it totally okay.
Have you read The Couple Next Door or any other books by Shari Lapena? What did you think of them? Did you agree with my review or maybe have a different opinion? Comment below with your thoughts!