“This is a story that begins with a barbecue….An ordinary neighborhood barbecue in an ordinary backyard.”
What happened at that barbecue frames the plot for Liane Moriarty’s bestselling page turner, Truly, Madly, Guilty. With an expert hand, she teases out what actually transpired at the cookout, along the way filling us in on the lives of those who attended with their overlapping and complicated relationships.
Clementine and Erika grew up together, the friendship orchestrated by Clementine’s mother, Pamela. Erika’s father left when she was a child and her mother, Sylvia, fell apart, her penchant for collecting exploding into full blown hoarding. Clementine didn’t always welcome Erika’s presence, resentful that Pamela at times seemed to favor Erika over her own daughter. Truth be told, Pamela related more to Erika’s career as an accountant with regular hours and a steady paycheck, than to Clementine’s as a cellist, with an erratic schedule and constant auditions.
Clementine and Sam have two young daughters, Holly and Ruby, while Erika and her husband, Oliver, are childless. Neither couple boasts a happy marriage. Clementine, preparing for an important audition, feels guilty whenever she takes time to practice. While Sam makes a show of being cooperative, he’s going through his own career crisis and has little sympathy for his wife.
Erika’s complicated relationship with her mother drains her energy, both emotionally and physically. With Sylvia’s “collecting” spilling over onto the front lawn, complaints by neighbors require Erika to visit occasionally to clean up. Oliver is supportive, but often wonders if his wife will follow in the footsteps of her mother.
Vid and Tiffany, who live next door to Erika and Sam, round out the trio of couples. Tiffany is Vid’s second wife and they have a daughter, Dakota, whose nose is constantly buried in a book. While Tiffany now makes money in real estate, she was once a pole dancer and still has the look.
The barbecue was a spur of the moment invitation from Vid. Erika and Oliver had already invited Clementine and Sam over for dinner and Vid eagerly expanded the invitation to include both couples as well as Holly and Ruby. It’s an invitation they will all come to regret.
As she did in one of her previous bestsellers, Big Little Lies, Moriarty alternates between the past and present. In Big Little Lies, the big event was a Trivia Night at a posh school for children. In Truly, Madly, Guilty, it’s the barbecue. With both books, I had the urge to flip forward to discover what crisis impacted the lives of the characters. But Moriarty manages to make the present equally compelling as she carefully adds to each character’s resume.
Moriarty, one of Australia’s most popular writers – her sisters, Jaclyn and Nicola are also novelists – is now an international favorite. Her reputation will continue to grow in 2017 with the release of the HBO miniseries based on Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgard. Can one on Truly, Madly, Guilty be far behind?
Truly Madly, Guilty
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