Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

So this is not the book to start with if you’re new to Liane Moriarty. Ordinarily, she writes suspenseful novels of the secrets hidden behind the facade of the average (Australian) suburbanite, and usually she makes good use of interesting plot mechanisms to create dazzling puzzle boxes of novels. But Truly Madly Guilty’s mechanism is far too clunky, creaky and slow, dragging us back and forth between the present-day and a disastrous barbecue several weeks in the past. Ms Moriarty’s characterizations are spot on, as always, revealing the good, bad and ugly of the people she writes about, but the build-up towards the revelation of What Happened on the day of the barbecue was less suspenseful than tedious, and I’m not sure why that is. I liked the characters (my favorite was Vid, and I’m not sure what that says about me) and I enjoyed the writing, but I felt it was far too drawn out in the before and perhaps not as accomplished in the after as I’m used to from her. I thought it most telling that the sentence that resonated with me most was when Oliver said to Erika, “Nothing bad has ever happened to them” and I whole-heartedly agreed: What Happened at the barbecue was rough but Sam especially was such a baby about it, tho I’m glad Ms Moriarty resolved it all the way she did. Just because someone is a big baby doesn’t mean they don’t have real problems that need solving after all (so that they can perhaps stop being big babies and start being functional people again.) That said, Ms Moriarty is a writer of great sympathies and talents, and this is still a novel far above the average of popular fiction.

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