Sunday, 28 August 2016

Book Review: TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

Title: Truly Madly Guilty
Author: Liane Moriarty
Read: August 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

My thoughts:

Liane Moriarty has done it again! With an insight into the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians that would put any psychologist to shame, she has given us a new cast of wonderful real-to-life characters whose lives are thrown into turmoil from the events occurring at an ordinary Sunday afternoon backyard barbeque in a suburban Sydney neighbourhood. I love the way Moriarty slowly unveils her characters like peeling layers of onions, until they become so familiar that I was sure I would recognise them if I bumped into them in the street. Brought even more to life by the wonderful narrative powers of Caroline Lee, after 18-hours of listening pleasure these people were more familiar to me than some friends I have known for years. I was almost in mourning when the book ended. There were so many potential fascinating sideline stories – like the early days of Erica’s and Clementine’s friendship and Erica’s life with her hoarder mother (which would make a great book). Every character stayed true to themselves as the story progressed, which is not an easy feat, as the book is very much character rather than action driven, and I never felt (in all 18 hours of listening) that any of the people acted in a way which would be out of character for them.

In her usual style, Moriarty delivers as many laughs as she does heartbreak, and my daily commute was enlivened by the emotional roller-coaster ride she serves up so effortlessly. To say I loved it would be an understatement. It consumed me! It is only a top book which makes me sit in my dark driveway in the middle of the night after a 10-hour work shift and an hour’s commute, to listen “just a few more minutes” because I just have to know what happens next. Moriarty has mastered the art of describing  the mundane elements of daily life in way that fleshes out the story and the characters without ever making it boring. Personally, this element of recognising myself and the people in my life in various characters and their actions has always been Moriarty’s “secret weapon” for me, the thing that makes me come back for more because I am so addicted to her storytelling. I read that Hollywood is planning to turn two of her books into movies, and am in two minds over this – the characters are so alive in my mind that no Hollywood actors/actresses could ever do them justice and capture the full essence of their personalities.

I do not want to go too much into the elements of the story for fear of giving something away, other than that I was glad I could not cheat with the audiobook to take a sneaky peek at “what really happened at that fateful barbeque”. It was worth the patience and getting the full background stories , and suddenly the emotional fallout all made sense. I felt that the way one and the same event affected each person so fundamentally different was well explored. I loved each individual character for their “warts and all”, and for once did not feel that having many different POVs was distracting. There wasn’t a single character’s POV I found boring or tempted to skip over (usually there is always at least one less interesting one), as each was intriguing with their wildly different personalities and interpersonal relationships. As much as the story describes everyday events, it also raises a few ethical questions we may be faced with in our life. The complexity of Erica’s and Clementine’s friendship raised some interesting questions and prompted some reflection on my part into the roles different people play in my life and how these dynamics affect us.

All in all, I can sum it up in one word: brilliant! This is the reason Moriarty is firmly on my favourite authors list and I am eagerly awaiting her next book. A fully deserved 5 stars from me!

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