I realized I had a few more Liane Moriarty books to check off my list to be a completionist– having just finished The Last Anniversary last week, I think I’m down to just one book left. And that’s sad because I can’t say that I loved this book, i’m really hoping that my last book will be better and give me a little reminder of what I loved from her other books. Because this one? I just felt majorly perplexed by it. We start with a hypnotist who’s in her late thirties who hasn’t found lasting love over the years. While she’s quite successful in her profession as a hypnotist (in her beach front home!!), she wants a family. Luckily, Patrick comes along with a young son named Jack and very quickly they fall into one another’s lives…
Anyone else read this before?
But wait! There’s a twist!
Patrick has quite a bit of emotional things he needs to deal with. First, Patrick is a widower and Ellen (the hypnotist) spends much of her time worried as to how she compares to the dead Colleen. And if there’s one thing everyone should know, you can’t compare yourself to the dead, because they’ll win every time…they become saints and no one speaks ill of them. So imagine how poor Ellen feels as she finds tasteful nudes of Colleen in Patrick’s things (hint, the girl was like a supermodel) when he and Jack move in? Imagine how she feels when EVERYONE tells her stories of what a great mother and wife she was. That’s tough stuff to bare in a relatively new relationship. But wait, there’s more!
Patrick also has a stalker. Her name is Saskia (is that a real name?) and she was the first person Patrick dated after his wife died. We hear quite a bit from Saskia’s point of view and how much she needs to still be in both Patrick and Jack’s life. For three years, Saskia acted as Jack’s mother and when Patrick broke up with her, she was quite blindsided by the whole thing. Saskia loved both Patrick and Jake, pointing her career aside and embracing motherhood as well as being a partner to Patrick. When he left her, she unraveled quite a bit, unsure of her place in the world and also in a lot of pain. She “solves” this, by remaining in their lives…just without Patrick’s consent. This causes Patrick to be paranoid, prickly and overall how you would feel if you were being stalked for several years. Ellen on the other hand? Kind of likes it… and is curious about Saskia and why she does the strange things that she does. For Ellen, the stalking validates her relationship. Even if she has doubts it has to be something real and important if Saskia is invading their privacy and doing weird but non-violent things like baking biscuits in Ellen’s house while they’re out (which Ellen eats! WTF????) and other vaguely spoilery things.
Here’s the thing–everything wraps up pretty neatly and both Patrick and Saskia’s behavior is pretty off the wall. And yet both get explained to us as readers (I won’t do it so as not to spoil it for you), that is supposed to make us understand and perhaps even empathize with those two. And I did for Patrick mostly…and while I felt a little bad for Saskia– I also can remember when I had my heart broken that seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember being really depressed. I remember feeling crazy…but I also remember that I did not stalk my ex. I thought about him too much, I talked about him too much, and I cried over him for waaaaaaaaayyyyyy too long. But never once did I get in my car and watch him or make him feel powerless. Why? Because while my life felt completely off kilter and I didn’t have a lot of joy at the time–I also wasn’t crazy. So yeah, you can try and explain that behavior and even have other characters (her friends) kind of laugh it off, but I couldn’t laugh it off because even though she wasn’t doing anything violent, she was still pretty terrifying.
So– of course you could read worse books but I think there’s far better things in Moriarty’s canon to read as well. Also, don’t take my review for gospel because I just checked out Goodreads and people feel very differently about the book. I read some vitriolic one star reviews and some glowing 5 star reviews. I’m going to sit pretty at 3 stars (and think more like 2.5 but feel too mean to actually do that) and say that I think Moriarty is a great writer and interesting developer of characters but I couldn’t enjoy any of these characters much because I didn’t believe their actions.