Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 415 Pages
Release date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?
Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.
Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?
In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.
This was my second Liane Moriarty book, and perhaps Big Little Lies was simply too tough an act to follow. There were a lot of similarities between the two books, but I think Truly Madly Guilty‘s fatal flaw is in the pacing. The whole book hinges on what happened one evening at a neighborhood barbecue; Moriarty leaves the reader in the dark about what this horrific incident was, and in the end, the buildup feels truly out of proportion to the reveal. Honestly, 100 pages could have been cut from this book and I don’t think it would have suffered for it.
That being said, there was a lot to like in this book. Moriarty tackles a variety of social issues, from mental health to gender issues and the intersection between them. Several characters in Truly Madly Deeply suffer from mental health issues throughout the course of the story; Moriarty does a good job of illustrating how these tend to be overlooked in men, or worse, viewed as a sign of weakness.
…The terrible thought occurred to her that perhaps she’d always unconsciously believed that because Sam didn’t cry, he therefore didn’t feel, or he felt less, not as profoundly or deeply as she did. Her focus had always been on how his actions affected her feelings, as if his role was to do things for her, to her, and all that mattered was her emotional response to him, as if a “man” were a product or service, and she’d finally chosen the right brand to get the right response. Was it possible she’d never seen or truly loved him the way he deserved to be loved? As a person? An ordinary, flawed, feeling person?
There is also a character who is former sex worker; she is a former stripper and not ashamed of her past, but she is grappling with the complicated emotions that come from feeling that she’s done nothing wrong while still worrying about how her past may reflect on her child in a posh new school environment.
Moriarty digs deeply into the complicated psychology of many of her characters, and that’s where she truly shines as an author. Even the grumpy old neighbor from across the street gets a chapter, and while it moves the plot forward, its real purpose is to give us a chance to empathize with a character who felt irredeemable and one-dimensional prior to that moment. He doesn’t suddenly become a knight in shining armor, but he becomes painfully human.
The two main female characters, Erika and Clementine, both have moments where they are intensely unlikable. Erika is uptight and judgmental; Clementine is resentful of a sense of obligation to be friends with Erika, who has no other friends. They are sometimes selfish and unkind. At the same time, they are written as women with hopes and dreams and loads of love in their hearts, and it’s never hard to empathize with them. I like that Moriarty is able to write these complex, flawed women in a way that feels raw and genuine. It’s easy to finish a Moriarty book feeling like you’ve met a new friend, and it’s terribly satisfying to spend time in these women’s heads.
There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen. It happens just like this. You don’t become someone else. You’re still exactly the same. Everything around you still smells and looks and feels exactly the same.
Coming soon from Liane Moriarty…
“Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…
Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.
Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?
It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. ”