‘Apples Never Fall’ Book Ending: Does Joy Die In Liane Moriarty’s Novel?


Liane Moriarty’s 2021 thriller novel, Apples Never Fall, revolves around a dysfunctional family in Sydney, Australia whose lives are turned upside down after a mysterious stranger appears on their doorstep. The Delaneys had been living a pretty decent life so far. Or at least this was the lie that they told themselves and the world around them. Throughout these years, they have been bottling up their emotions in order to avoid confrontation and conflict. Little did they realize that their own ignorance had weakened the very foundation of the family as sometimes sharing the problems do wonders one cannot imagine. 

Spoiler Alert

Who Are The Delaneys?

Apples Never Fall begins with a couple, Joy and Stan Delaney, who have been happily married for the past 50 years now. The couple ran a prestigious Tennis Academy in the country which they eventually sold after their kids failed to achieve fame and their star player Harry Haddad left Stan for a better coach. It was the end of it all, at least for Stan, who stopped being a coach anymore. Their four children, Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke, all tried their luck in the tennis game but failed to have any substantial success. They moved on and finally settled into a profession, which didn’t turn out great either, just like their ongoing relationships with their partners. But we don’t want to go there. The novel fills the pages with their complex dynamics, but we just want to focus on Joy and Stan for now.

Who Is Savannah Pagonis?

One fine night, a bruised woman named Savannah Pagonis appeared at Delaneys’ house and sold them a story that they couldn’t ignore. According to Savannah, she had run away from her abusive boyfriend and needed a place to settle down. Joy sympathized with her plea and wanted to help the poor woman in any way she could. She took her in without any further interrogation, even though Stan had his doubts about her. Slowly, Savannah became a part of the family and was also introduced to the four children, who evidently looked at her with suspicion. While struggling with their personal lives, the four children started investigating Savannah’s background only to find out that she was a compulsive liar who forged a story about her abuse. According to her boyfriend, Dave, she bruised her face and cut her hand after watching the news of Harry Haddad’s comeback, which most likely triggered some childhood traumas.

Why Did Savannah Come To The Delaneys?

Savannah, whose real name was Smith, used to be a promising ballet dancer in Adelaide or at least that was what her mother wanted her to be. To achieve a perfect ballerina figure, Savannah’s mother starved her and traumatized the poor soul. Meanwhile, her brother, Harry Haddad, enjoyed the most expensive meals in the world to beef up for tennis training sessions. When Savannah was just a teenager, she broke into the Delaneys house to steal a banana as her mother had starved her beyond the limits. However, the family treated the little girl awfully and chased her out of the house. The entire incident not only humiliated a young Savannah but also left a deep scar which she never really forgot. 

When Savannah heard the news of her brother’s comeback, she finally decided to come to the Delaneys’ house and take revenge for the humiliation she had suffered years ago. Nevertheless, after such an emotional confrontation with the family, Savannah soon left the house. However, before walking out, she dropped one last missile that destroyed the entire happy family dynamic. She told Stan that it was her wife, Joy, who asked his star player, Harry, to leave the academy and find another coach if he wanted to reach new heights in his career (or win a Grand Slam). Harry’s exit from the academy was the end of Stan’s career as he had to sell the academy after the incident. In the present time, as the new revelation came to light, Stan blamed his wife for destroying his life.

Is Joy Really Dead?

While a major chunk of the book revolves around Savannah’s strange arrival and the mystery around her true intentions, the second part involves Joy’s sudden disappearance from the house without any trace. For anyone looking for any meaty thriller here would be disappointed to find out the truth. Basically, Savannah’s sweet and simple revenge put a dent in Stan and Joy’s long marriage and the couple stopped talking to each other, even though they shared the same roof. On Valentine’s Day, a sixty nine-year old Joy decided to call a truce with her husband. She planned to bake his favorite apple crumble pie and went to the market for the same. We know the series made a fuss out of the broken bicycle but I will let it slide knowing how the mystery is going to be resolved. However, on her return, she got into a heated argument with her husband, who quickly left the house. 

It was at this moment, when Joy, fed up with the toxic environment in the house, got a call from Savannah, who informed her about a 21 Day Off the Grid Challenge. Joy didn’t think twice and quickly left the house, leaving a note behind for Stan and the family. However, the fridge magnet holding the note lost its grip, because of which no one ever found Joy’s note and everyone declared her disappeared. While Joy had been enjoying her three weeks retreat in a remote cabin, back in Sydney, everyone spent their night and day searching for her. Three weeks later, the police eventually decide to arrest Stan for Joy’s murder when suddenly Joy walks into the house. I know, not the kind of twist anyone was expecting.

The incident became a lesson for the Delaney family who decided to talk things out between themselves and share their feelings instead of locking them up in a little box and throwing it at the back of their minds. Each of the siblings made peace with their past traumas and finally found some success in life. Joy, too, made a promise to herself to make her family and marriage work.

What Happened To Savannah?

In the end, Savannah finally realized her mistake and apologized to Joy and Stan for terrorizing their family. She wanted to make peace with her mother as well and therefore decided to fly to her hometown, Adelaide, to meet her. However, while on the flight back home, the novel narrated Savannah’s last few days with her mother which revealed to the readers that Savannah had locked her mother in her own bedroom with the intention of starving her to death. It was her way of taking revenge on her mother for emotionally and physically abusing her in childhood. Throughout the book, Savannah wore an old-timey door key necklace which was the key to her mother’s bedroom so that no one could save her except her. However, Savannah wasn’t bluntly cruel like her mother and left a few bottles of water along with some protein bars which implied the fact that her mother might still be alive. The book, Apples Never Fall, ends on a cliffhanger with an uncertainty over whether Savannah will meet her mother again or will come across her corpse in the same bedroom. Whatever the case might be, Savannah had most likely taught her mother the much-required lesson. We can only wish that she would be alive to realize her mistake.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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