Liane Moriarty has become known for character-drivendramatic suspense — setting up an event and slowly revealing what really happened and each character’s participation and motivation, like she did in her blockbuster Big Little Lies.
Truly Madly Guilty follows that formula. Something happens at a neighborhood barbecue — something that affects the relationships of all involved, with each other, but also within their own homes — but we as readers are left out. Chapters alternate between the present (about 6 weeks later), and “the day of the barbecue,” doling out little bits of information and clues to what might have happened.
It’s a longer book (over 500 pages), but I’m not sure I needed the length. I did feel as if the characters were strongly developed and rooted in the story, which I do enjoy, but I felt like the first third was a bit slow going. That said, after that, it moved right along, and as I hinted, I do think that the extra time with the characters did flesh them out some. The ending wasn’t rushed, as is sometimes the case in dramatic suspense, and it all came together well.
Vid and Tiffany are Erika and Oliver’s flamboyant neighbors. Erika and Oliver have invited old friends Clementine and Sam over for a heavy conversation, but when Erika meets Vid at the curb and suggests a barbecue, she agrees, thinking it will be the perfect distraction. Vid is fascinated by Clementine the cellist and Erika knows that they are more fun than her and her equally sensible husband.
The novel explores Erika’s and Clementine’s decades-long friendship, the complicated ins and outs of adult mother/daughter relationships, the stress of even strong healthy marriages, the roles a woman is expected to play in today’s society.
The story and the themes and issues which it touches upon will stick with me for a long time. Though I missed it in hard cover, I’m glad I finally got to it in paperback.