Skip to main content

Just the Nicest Couple


Just the Nicest Couple

JUST THE NICEST COUPLE is the latest novel from Mary Kubica, the bestselling author of such books as THE GOOD GIRL, THE OTHER MRS. and LOCAL WOMAN MISSING. This time, she has penned a domestic thriller about two couples with plenty of reasons to envy one another, but even more secrets.

Lily Scott and Nina Hayes have been good friends ever since Nina was assigned as Lily’s mentor when she began teaching at the same high school. What started as a mentor-mentee relationship soon developed into a terrific, fulfilling friendship as Lily learned about the ins and outs of high school students (spoiler: teenage girls can be mean to you no matter your age or status) and began to carve a niche for herself as one of the youngest, prettiest teachers. Since then, they’ve shared drinks and gossiped at staff events, hosted one another and their husbands for dinners, and confided in one another about not just teaching woes, but their marital and fertility issues as well.

"As always, Kubica does an incredible job of getting inside her characters’ heads and unflinchingly asking the questions that every person (and every husband and wife, in particular) asks themselves..."

But while Lily and Nina share a common career, their husbands are a bit different. Lily’s husband, Christian, works in risk management and does well for himself, but the couple is by no means wealthy. Nina’s husband, Jake, is a competent and highly sought-after neurosurgeon whose cold and calculating bedside manner often results in poor reviews, but his work is so clean and thorough that he has turned it into a six-figure career. Living in the same town, the couples are in similar tax brackets. But while Lily and Christian had to budget and spend frugally for months to avoid their old-on-the-outside, totally-remodeled-on-the-inside home, Nina and Jake were able to buy an expensive house and tear it down only to build an even more expensive one on the lot --- complete with an attached garage that houses their Tesla and BMW.

When we meet the couples, Lily is pregnant…again. She has suffered multiple miscarriages and is now both terrified of losing her most recent pregnancy and almost convinced that it will happen again. As a result, she is overly cautious, putting an end to her usual running routine and trying to avoid stress as much as possible. Across town, Nina and Jake have had a blowout fight: Nina, Jake claims, has been spending too much time with her ailing mother and has put him second, which annoys the smug, self-centered surgeon. At 38, Nina is conscious that she definitely does not want to start over, especially if she would like to have children one day. But even so, she cannot help the ugly, vicious words that come out of her mouth: If you hate it here so much, why don’t you leave?

These utterances throw the couples together when Lily, taking a walk through the local park to get some fresh air and exercise, runs into Jake and they share an uncomfortable conversation. Lily is shaken by their interaction but even more shaken throughout the week when Nina tells her that Jake has not been home for days. She knows she was the last person to see him, alive or dead. It is time for Lily to come clean about what really happened in the park. However, there is much more than meets the eye to Lily and Christian, who everyone believes to be just the nicest couple.

As the pressure intensifies on Lily and Christian to cover their tracks and hide what happened in the park, Kubica tosses several red herrings her readers’ way. This leads to a lot of questions about what really happened to Jake, whether he’s alive or dead, and just how much Nina truly knows about her husband. As always, Kubica does an incredible job of getting inside her characters’ heads and unflinchingly asking the questions that every person (and every husband and wife, in particular) asks themselves: All couples fight, but are we fighting too much? Everyone needs space, but is it normal to need this much space? I value my privacy, but how much do I value my spouse’s? At the same time, Kubica introduces enough ambiguity and suspense that readers really do not know what happened to Jake, how Lily was involved, or how much their spouses know about them.

That said, JUST THE NICEST COUPLE tends to be overly descriptive about minute details while just grazing the surface of the relationships between the couples and one another. The novel is terrifically introspective about each person’s motivations, yet I often had a hard time relating to these characters. I also thought the ending was a bit of a letdown and wish it had been more realistic.

Nevertheless, I already am looking forward to Kubica’s next work and may reread THE GOOD GIRL, my favorite book of hers, in the meantime.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on January 13, 2023

Just the Nicest Couple
by Mary Kubica