Rouda’s latest thriller, “Somebody’s Home,” is not as good as her previous ones, like The Favourite Daughter, which came out in 2019, and The Best Day Ever, which came out in 2017. But it’s worth reading if you’re into fast-paced storylines that don’t give readers much time to think. This book, published by Thomas & Mercer, is only 300 pages long. It starts at the very climax and then begins narrating past events from the characters’ perspective. The novel is set in Southern California, and the characters include people of various ages. One common theme that runs throughout the novel is the issue of women being ill-treated. Rouda takes on a lot of characters, and when the male characters narrate how they perceive the women around them, we can only be infuriated with society and the conditions that have helped to form this perception. Let’s look at the plot in brief to understand what the novel deals with.
The novel begins with Tom talking about how he has been betrayed by his father, Doug, and his stepmother, Sandi. He had taken a short trip to the desert with his friends for only a week, and in the meantime, his family took the golden opportunity to sell the family house to some stranger. They gave Tom an ultimatum that he has to move out by Sunday with his belongings from the carriage house, which he had turned into his place when he turned 18. The new family would have already shifted by then and have been requested not to kick Tom out before Sunday. Tom is furious because he doesn’t know what he will do or where he will be staying. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, and his father doesn’t care much about him because he has two young boys and a new wife to take care of. The way he narrates it makes us feel sorry for Tom, and we cannot help but think about what sort of father would create so much trouble for his own son. Tom talks about Sandi in a manner that makes the readers feel that she is responsible for such a turn of events and that maybe she talked her husband into this.
On the other side of the story, we have Julie, a typical trophy wife of a Southern Californian businessman, Roger Jones, who is very rich and influential. Julie has undergone as many plastic surgeries as a human could have and now wants to do away with her life as Roger’s wife and start fresh on her own. She wants to give him a divorce and has made all sorts of arrangements that were required, including appointing lawyers, making plans on how she can earn her own living, getting a place to stay for herself and her daughter, etc. She has bought a new house on Cherry Hill Lane which happens to be the house of Tom and his parents, and has shifted there with her daughter Jess while Roger was away on a business trip to New York. She is scared of her husband’s reaction when he comes back home to find her and their daughter missing, but she is adamant that no matter what, she will not fix things with him this time, making the readers aware that this has happened before.
Jess, on the other hand, is not quite happy with the move. She is a typical spoiled child of rich parents who had time for everyone and everything but not their own daughter. She doesn’t care what her mother wants. All she cares about is her own life. She is in her senior year and has already been accepted to USC. She keeps thinking and telling her mother, Julie, that she does not care what plans she has for her. She just wants to get away from the mess that her mother has made by suddenly leaving her father out of nowhere. She isn’t bothered by the fact that she is hurting her mother’s feelings. She finds the new house terrible and creepy, but she finds it interesting and agrees to stay for a while, when she sees Tom in the backyard. She has made up her mind that no matter what plans her mother might have made for her, she will be staying at her friend Bonnie’s place for the senior year until she can go off to college. Jess has plans of going and staying at Bonnie’s place for that night itself because of a party and tells her mother, to which she complies. Soon, Jess meets Tom and talks to him. Both of them seem to like each other, and we can see sparks of a blossoming romance. Julie doesn’t like Tom’s appearance or his weird friends who come to his place to hang out, and she hopes that he will move out soon.
We also have Roger coming back from the trip and discovering that his wife and daughter have left. He is very angry and vows to bring them back no matter what. He appears to be a haughty person who cares only about his work and money and has very little time and patience for his family. For him, money can buy all the happiness that he needs, and he feels that it would help him get his wife and daughter back, too, because they cannot manage to survive without his money and power. Sandi appears in the scene, too, with her two young boys and her God-fearing nature, which reminds her repeatedly that no matter what, leaving her husband is a sin in Christianity. She naturally cares about Tom and has been worried about him for a long time. It turns out that she had always treated him as her own and didn’t want to sell the house or throw Tom out of it like that. What happens then? What did Tom do, or was it something that his father did? Would Roger be able to bring Julie and Jess back with his money? What happens next? To know more, get a copy of this mixed-bag mystery thriller.