Several of us at LQ are reading Liane Moriarty right now. Janna and Joli seem to like her well enough, but I! I adore her. And, I’ve loved the performances of Caroline Lee, the narrator of her most recent audiobooks. In fact, both Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret made my Top 5 listens of 2015.
It goes without saying, then, that I downloaded Moriarty and Lee’s latest, Truly, Madly, Guilty on its release day, undeterred by the blah review in the New York Times. In that review, critic Janet Maslin says that “You’d have to be a very dedicated Moriarty fan to believe much of anything that happens” in the back half of this novel. Well, I am a dedicated fan, Janet, so bring it on!
The Story: So, Maslin isn’t totally off the mark here when she points out that the suspense leading up to the ill-fated barbecue, is a little much. What happens is this: lifelong friends Erika and Clementine and their husbands meet up with Erika’s neighbors for a backyard party. Way too many glasses of wine and an insane mash-up of unfortunate circumstances later, and something happens that changes all of their lives. The something is big and important, but not as big and important as two hundred pages of foreshadowing make it seem. Swirling around the event are the backstories of the main characters, most especially Erika and Clementine who have a complex and uneasy friendship, made even more fraught by the involvement of both of their mothers, each with her own baggage and biases.
The Writing: Glimmers of my favorite Moriarty-isms shine through this book: surprising motivations, realistic anger, and heartwarming reconciliation. The dialogue zips, and I felt empathy for each major player. As usual, I laughed out loud a bit. Still, it’s my least favorite of her novels. It seemed like the whole first half needed a good, firm edit. The end, however, has several moments to love – moments, for me, that made the read worthwhile.
The Recording: I enjoyed Caroline Lee again – her work strikes me as warm and engaging, and I love the Australian accent for this Australian author. I had one problem with Truly, Madly, Guilty, which was Lee’s portrayal of Vid, Erika’s neighbor. His Indian accent and extended vowels seemed overdone and maybe a bit culturally insensitive.
The Bottom Line: Well, Janet Maslin? I reluctantly agree with you. My advice: If you’re new to Moriarty, start with all of the others, including What Alice Forgot which Janna reviewed right here at LQ. If you love Moriarty, read this. Slog through the first half and enjoy the fairly sizable reward.