Book Review: Playing Nice by JP Delaney

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Playing Nice  playing nice

Publish Date: July 28, 2020

People said it took a village to raise a child, but I didn’t even have a cul-de-sac.” — Playing Nice

Idea 1 (2)

Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son—he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.

The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents—or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.

Idea 2 (2)

JP Delaney is an excellent storyteller. In The Girl Before, Emma and Jane were controlled by their rich boyfriend through a smart house. In Believe Me (my review here), Claire plays the role of her life in a relationship with a serial killer. And in The Perfect Wife (my review here), Tim, a Steve Jobs type Silicon Valley CEO has created a robot version of his beloved assumed-dead wife. This book, like the others, is binge-worthy.

Our children mean more to us than we do ourselves.  But what if you are suddenly told that the child you are bringing up – the child that you have fed, bathed, played with, taught the letters of the alphabet to, parented for two whole years – isn’t yours?

Peter and Maddie are your average parents facing the daily struggle of raising a 2 year old, paying bills, and balancing career & family. Then, their world is rocked with shocking news of an accidental swap at the hospital just a few days after the babies’ births. The other parents, Miles and Lucy, are equally surprised yet they immediately form a friendship with Peter and Maddie in hopes of an amicable relationship between the two families.

If this story was purely switched-at-birth tale, it would be boring. But JP Delaney kicks up the plot 10 notches to make this baby swap story gripping and compelling by throwing in mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and psychopaths. The title of the book is so symbolic and ironic; once you get into the story, you’ll understand its meaning.

None of the characters were likeable, but they were fascinating. Peter and Maddie were gullible and naive and I felt that they got no breaks or had anything hopeful occur in their favor throughout the entire book. They made bad decisions and ended up in awful situations. That was very frustrating and discouraging.

The story makes you think about love, what it means to be a parent, nature vs. nurture, and the lengths that you might go to protect your family.

My favorite quotes:

I don’t mean I think he’s someone else’s baby. I mean I feel as if he is.”

“Adoptive parents take better care of their children than natural parents do.”

“We can’t always have what we want, though, can we?”

“Love your job, but don’t expect it to love you back.”

“I’ve heard people say that there are no winners in legal cases. I’m beginning to understand why.”

This book is an interesting lesson in social services, custody, the courts and the legal process. It’s also about psychopathy, mental illness, addiction, betrayal, custody, parenting, manipulation, postpartum depression, and marriage. It’s not exactly a feel-good book but it’s unforgettable tale that definitely makes you think, especially if you are a parent.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

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