Thursday, July 02, 2020

Fiction Review: Truly Madly Guilty

I know that I am late to the party. Everyone has been raving about Liane Moriarty's novels for years, and Big Little Lies was such a huge hit that Reese Witherspoon made it into an HBO TV show that was an even bigger hit. So, I used my Big Book Summer Challenge as added motivation to finally read Liane Moriarty's Truly Madly Guilty, which my mother lent to me years ago. Now I see what everyone has been raving about! I loved this compelling modern drama about friends and family.

The novel begins with Clementine, a mother, wife, and professional cello player, talking about something horrible that happened at a neighborhood barbecue. In fact, Clementine is giving a public talk about this incident, and her childhood best friend, Erika, is in the audience. But the author cleverly switches scenes before the reader finds out what happened at this life-changing barbecue. And that sets up a pattern for the first three-quarters of the novel. The action moves back and forth between the present-day and flashbacks to the day of the barbecue, beginning in the morning and ever-so-slowly building to ... whatever happened. Erika and her husband, Oliver, live a quiet life in a suburban cul-de-sac outside Sydney in a pristine home. That fateful morning, Erika runs into their next-door neighbor, Vid, who is married to the gorgeous Tiffany, and lives in a slightly outrageous castle-like home. Vid is a friendly, outgoing man who truly loves to throw parties and shower his guests with good food, drinks, and music, and he invites Erika and Oliver to a barbecue that night. Erika tries to wriggle out of the invitation by explaining that Clementine and her husband, Sam, and their two little girls are coming for dinner, but Vid insists they all come to his house. The party starts out fun and festive, but the chapters taking place in the present day make it clear that something happened that day, at that barbecue, that changed all of their lives.

Moriarty builds such delicious tension into this novel right from the first pages and draws the suspense out, until it is almost unbearable and the reader is thinking, "What on earth happened at that barbecue??" The characters feel real, and she slowly builds them up, gradually revealing bits of information from their childhoods and backgrounds that explain their behaviors and feelings in the present, making them three-dimensional and complex. Much of the action is ordinary families going about ordinary lives but with that constant tension just beneath the surface. I guessed all kinds of things but was still shocked when the secret was finally revealed! Even though it qualifies as a Big Book (over 400 pages) for my challenge, I read it in record time because it was just so compelling that I stayed up much too late most nights, reading "just one more chapter." I loved the experience and can't wait to read more Liane Moriarty novels!

517 pages, Flatiron Books

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  1. I am later than you so you not alone! Thanks for the review.

  2. I really liked reading Big Little Lies and this one sounds like it has the same tension between friends and neighbors as well as a build up to "what really happened." Adding it to my TBR list!

    1. I have to read Big Little Lies!