Day 1038: Truly Madly Guilty

Cover for Truly Madly GuiltyTruly Madly Guilty focuses around a suburban barbecue, during which something bad happens that literally everyone there blames themselves for. We don’t find out exactly what happened, though, until the end of the novel.

The novel follows two time streams. The first is a couple of months after the barbecue, when everyone is trying to process reactions to the event. Erika attends a talk that Clementine is giving about the event precisely because she has gaps in her memory. But she is unable to listen, because the whole thing upsets her too much.

Back on the day of the event, Erika and her husband Oliver have invited Clementine and her husband Sam over because they want to ask them something important, a favor. Erika and Clementine have been supposed best friends since school, but Erika is unaware how Clementine resents her. Years ago, Clementine only befriended Erika to please her mother, who felt sorry for Erika.

Erika and Oliver’s expansive neighbor Vid interferes with their plans. When he hears Clementine and Sam and their two little daughters are coming over, he invites everyone to his place for a barbecue.

Erika’s confusion results from her being so nervous that she takes an entire pill of a sedative that her doctor has told her to try half or a quarter of. Then she uncharacteristically drinks, causing problems with Oliver, whose parents are alcoholics.

This novel untangles the events of that evening while it explores the relationships between the two women and between them and their husbands. I don’t think it was the best or most suspenseful Moriarty I’ve read, but her novels are always eminently readable.

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Day 938: What Alice Forgot

Cover for What Alice ForgotAlice Love wakes up from an accident thinking she is 29, pregnant with her first child, and madly in love with her husband Nick. But she is actually 39, the mother of three children, and separated from Nick. It takes her a while to understand she is ten years older, much thinner, and quite a bit harder and more driven than she remembers.

Alice escapes from the hospital by simply lying to the doctors. But somehow, she must piece together her life from the allusions of other people and her own feelings of occasional discomfort. How can she get along with her three unknown children? What happened between her and Nick? Why are she and her sister Elizabeth on the outs? And who the heck is Gina?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, mostly because of its characterizations. Alice in her 29-year-old reincarnation is guileless and likable, and Nick in her memories is also endearing. Alice’s children seem like real kids, adorable one minute and infuriating the next.

I didn’t like as much the sections written by Elizabeth to her therapist or by Frannie to her long-dead fiancé, but their stories add more depth to the novel. Since the focus was so much on Alice, there probably wasn’t another way to fit that information in.

All in all, this is another highly enjoyable novel from Moriarty. Toward the end, I was afraid she was going to take an easy path, but she did not.

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Day 909: Big Little Lies

Cover for Big Little LiesBest Book of the Week!
From the very beginning of Big Little Lies, we’re aware that someone has been killed, but we don’t know who, or why, or by whom. Liane Moriarty’s novel artfully builds suspense as it draws you in to care about certain of the characters.

The action of the novel is centered around Pirriweee Public School, and it begins six months before school trivia night, when the death occurs.

Madeline Mackenzie is taking her five-year-old daughter Chloe to kindergarten orientation when she has a small accident. Jane, the younger single mother of Ziggy, helps her, and Madeline and her friend Celeste befriend her. Jane is moving to the area in a few months when Ziggy will be in kindergarten with Chloe and Celeste’s twin sons Max and Josh.

During the orientation, the kindergarten teacher notices that someone has been choking Amabella, so she brings this up in front of all the children and parents, asking Amabella to say who hurt her. Amabella doesn’t want to say but ultimately seems to indicate Ziggy. Ziggy states clearly that he didn’t hurt Amabella, so Jane believes him.

However, Renata, Amabella’s high-powered corporate mother, starts a campaign with some of the other mothers to ostracize Ziggy. This begins with not inviting him to Amabella’s birthday party. All of this behavior escalates, and for a while I thought it might be taking on a comic edge, like the school-based nonsense caused by helicopter parents in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? But underlying it all is the knowledge that someone will end up dead.

And the characters have their secrets. Madeline, whose husband Nathan deserted her with a newborn baby 14 years earlier, is upset because he and his new wife Bonnie seem to be winning her older daughter away from her. And Jane’s and Celeste’s even darker secrets come out later.

This novel is striking in its ingenuity and in how much Moriarty brings you to care for its characters. I was deeply involved from beginning to end. The conclusion was eminently satisfying. I’ll be looking for more books by Moriarty.

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