‘How to Kill Your Family’ by Bella Mackie [Book Review]

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Image: Rakuten Kobo

I don’t know what exactly happened, but I was in a reading slump for months. I tried picking up books I first thought were exciting, only to find myself having a hard time connecting to the text just a few pages into them.

Good thing, though, Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family suddenly became available on Scribd. I thought it was the sign I’d been waiting for, considering the fact that when I first learned about this book, I was immediately intrigued by it mainly because of its title, which I thought was a nice contrast to how pink and chummy its cover was with its fun-looking typography and illustration.

The book had more than 400 pages, according to the app, but I was able to finish it in less than three days. Not bad for someone trying to get back in the groove, I guess. It’s also worth noting that I read it during one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever had at work.

What it is about

It revolves around Grace Bernard, a 20-something woman from London. She works in fashion PR, and she’s pretty unremarkable as a person. There’s a catch, though: She’s intentionally boring because she doesn’t want to stand out at all. She’s really avoiding unwanted attention so she can carry out her grand plan, which is to kill her family.

But why? Well, Grace is an illegitimate child of a wealthy man who abandoned her mom even before she was born. Her mother had to raise her on her own until she became ill and eventually died. Before passing away, her mom wrote a letter to her father, asking him for some help. But he just didn’t want anything to do with Grace.

Even after the mother died, the family of Grace’s dad refused to support her in any way. Eventually, Grace had to rely on the goodness of other people, though it was clear many times that they were just kind to her so they could feel good about themselves.

Now, Grace is enraged. She thinks things have been unfair, and she wants to take revenge. She believes the best way to do it is by killing his father and his side of the family. She also wants to take a chunk of their fortune so she can finally live her life the way she wants.

What I like about it

Most of the book is written as an autobiography from the perspective of Grace who, apparently, ends up in jail at some point for a murder she didn’t commit. While passing time behind bars, she decides to write about her real crimes, detailing all her plans and each step she’s taken so far to kill her family.

Due to its format, the narrative screams Grace’s personality. It even mirrors even how indulgent she can be when talking about her plans as well as some things she believes in. I may not agree with many of her opinions, but I had fun reading about them. She’s also very witty, which makes her narrative even more enjoyable to read.

I also love how angry she is. As a person who believes in necessary rage and is critical of a lot of things under the sun, from problematic influencers to the consumerist approach to self-care, I was more than relieved to know that the anger I have for certain things has not been misplaced at all.

[R]eading about angry women made me bolder, allowed me to nurture my anger, see it as a worthy and righteous thing.

And, of course, I was so invested in all the murders. It was as though I could benefit from them as well. It didn’t even bother me that I was rooting for a person who, in real life, would most likely disgust me. I guess I was just that hooked on the book.

What I don’t really like about it

As a reader, I’m pretty easy to please. When I really like the premise of the plot or the personality of the narrator, particularly, I am more than willing to suspend disbelief and be more forgiving even as I notice that things are seeming too contrived in the story.

I think that’s what happened when I was reading this book. Good thing, I was simply ready to accept how lucky Grace is. Fine, maybe the stars really align for her and her grand plan, so let the murders happen! Yet I’m also aware that it’s still a flaw. Sure, Grace acknowledges at some point that she’s had a lot of luck, but I know some people wouldn’t be so convinced, especially about how easy it is for her to get rid of certain side characters entangled in her mess.

Finally, that twist toward the end. It’s more of a personal preference, however. So, people should definitely read the book so they can find out what this plot twist is really about and how they’ll feel about it.

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