Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Look at the cover of Michelle Sacks’ You Were Made For This. Aren’t those cherries luscious? Perhaps they make you think of “Life Is Just a Bowlful of Cherries.” But then you look closer and that bowl is broken. At first glance, Merry and Sam’s new life in Sweden with their infant son is a bowl of cherries. They inherited a lovely cottage next to a nature reserve with woods, a lake, and trails. They planted a garden and she’s baking, canning, even making homemade baby food.

Nonetheless, subtly unease begins to creep in right from the beginning as Merry never says the baby’s name. She always calls him the baby. In the second chapter, Sam’s use of Conor’s name is reassuring, but then you notice as their narrative switches back and forth that neither of them are good or honest people. Their false happiness is laid bare when Merry’s best friend Frank comes to visit. Her open adoration of Conor highlights Merry’s coldness. But then, Frank is an odd sort of best friend, considering how she could insinuate herself into Merry’s place, how she could be a better mother, a better wife.

I did not enjoy You Were Made For This. I don’t think enjoy is a word you can use for a book where an infant breaks his arm and his mother doesn’t take him to a doctor and a husband enjoys cutting his wife off from the rest of the world. This happens early in the book and it only gets worse. I had to turn away, feeling sick, more than once reading this book.

On the other hand, the growing sense of unease, the slow revelation of their deceit, the rising menace, and the slow unraveling of everything is masterful. You will think you know what is going to happen, but you will be surprised again and again. That makes it a compulsive, fascinating book, but nothing can make it enjoyable.

I received an ARC ofYou Were Made For This from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.