Australian writer Liane Moriarty’s success is phenomenal, with six internationally bestselling novels, translations into 39 languages and an HBO series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon currently in production.
Set in Sydney, “Truly Madly Guilty” revolves around a mysterious catastrophe at an impromptu barbecue. The events of that night are enough to unravel long-term friendships, marriages and one’s mental health. Flipping back and forth between each character’s point of view, as well as shifting through time, the narrative doesn’t reveal what happened at the barbeque until late in the novel. This literary device works, as there never seems to be a time to put down the book; the desire to keep going is too strong.
Erika and Clementine are friends with a complicated relationship that has endured since childhood. Erika invites Clementine and her family over for a serious discussion, but then, Erika is convinced by her neighbor to come to a barbeque at their place, instead. Clementine and her family are invited, too, of course, and something happens at the barbeque that will change each of their relationships.
“Truly Madly Guilty” is written in two different intertwined timelines: sometime after the day of the barbeque, when we see the aftermath of what occurred, and the day of the barbecue itself.
Moriarty tackles topical everyday issues with affectionate but deadly accuracy, playing on her characters' insecurities in ways that allow the reader to recognize themselves. Every kind of anxiety and relationship wrinkle is mined to maximum potential in an elegantly choreographed dance between Erika, Clementine, their husbands and the neighbors, Vid and Tiffany. It’s a lot of fun. Moriarty, the queen of Australian suburban noir, sets up an intriguing multi-layered scenario.
A deft storyteller, Moriarty creates believable, relatable characters. The well-drawn cast here will engage readers and remind them that life halfway around the world isn’t much different from life here: families argue, neighbors meddle and children push boundaries.
I liked this book much more than I expected. The concluding chapters pack some unexpected emotional punches that left me in awe of the novel’s structure, as I realized how well thought-out this 500-plus page book is; there isn’t a word wasted.
If you are already a Moriarty fan, then you will need no encouragement from me to read this book (you are probably already reading it now). If, however, like me, you have been curious as to why her books are so popular, I urge you to take the plunge.
“Truly Madly Guilty’ is a great place to start.