This is my sixth Moriarty book. Like many people, Big Little Lies was the first (and best, for my money), but they’ve all been good, so I keep reading.
In Truly Madly Guilty, we meet Clementine and Sam, Erika and Oliver, and Tiffany and Vid, each going about, living their ordinary, suburban lives, until something awful happens at an ordinary, friendly barbecue hosted by the latter couple in their lavish back yard. Two months later, the characters deal with the fall-out from this event and wonder what their lives would have been like if they’d never gone to said barbecue.
As in all her books, Truly centres on white, wealthy families experiencing some sort of shocking, traumatic event, and the narrative jumps between times and perspectives to bring the reader up to speed. Sometimes this slow reveal of the secret propels you breathlessly towards the end, but in this case, I felt like the story really only got interesting once the “twist” was revealed midway through and Moriarty didn’t have to dance around what happened at the barbecue anymore.
Despite the somewhat repetitive premises, I’ve found Moriarty’s books endlessly readable because I enjoy spending time with her characters. I’ve read some reviews that express disappointment in the Big Reveals, but other than Big Little Lies, I don’t really see her books as thrillers or suspense stories anyway, so the reveal was never the point. In my review of The Husband’s Secret, I wrote: “You know what I love about Liane Moriarty’s books? The way that people, women especially, get to go about their day having important and ordinary conversations with their slightly witty, familiar personalities, and you feel like you’ve known them forever and just want to spend time with them.” This had been true up until now. But for most of Truly, I didn’t really like anyone. We meet the characters after the Big Secret Incident, when they’re all traumatised and miserable and bitchy, and we don’t know what happened or why we should care. The flashbacks to the day of the barbecue when everyone’s still their “normal” selves don’t really help because we spend a lot of time with the brittle Erika and frankly boring Clementine, and the only two characters I wanted to spend any time with (Oliver and Tiffany, if you’ve read it and are wondering), only get their own chapters a third of the way in. It also could have been a good 200 pages shorter.
So this was definitely my least favourite Moriarty novel (only Nine Perfect Strangers and The Last Anniversary still to go!) – it was, you know, fine, but I know she can do better, and at over 500 pages, Truly Madly Guilty is not worth the investment.