This is the second summer release I anxiously awaited only to be disappointed. Just like Emily Giffin’s First Comes Love, which I reviewed last month, Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty fell short of the high bar she has previously set for herself.
I have come to consider Moriarty a sort of modern day, female John Irving. Both are masters of bringing all story lines in their novels to fruition in the ultimately shocking ironic twist. Moriarty did it with precision in both The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies but in this book, the culminating event is shoved down your throat from the opening chapter. In fact, every other chapter is entitled “The Day of the Barbecue” so you know at the outset exactly when you’ll be reading the lead up.
The story centers around three couples, Clementine and Sam, Erika and Oliver, and Tiffany and Vid and, yes, you guessed it, a barbecue. Clementine and Erika have been best friends since childhood with a somewhat tortured relationship. The depth and texture with which Moriarty constructs this friendship is where she excels.
What also shines in this book is Moriarty’s character development. Though she never identifies Erika as suffering from a medical condition, she seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum with her lack of affect and inability to filter. Moriarty also delves into hoarding as a condition (Erika’s mom is a hoarder) and sheds real light on how it is a sickness first and foremost, not a problem with ‘things’.
As for the plot, while the denouement of the barbecue is no doubt dramatic, it is still anti-climactic. The wind up is like the tick-tick-ticking of a monster rollercoaster only to get to the top and drop a couple feet at a leisurely pace. Similarly, the revelations that come out after the event are equally a let-down because of the overwrought build up.
Overall, Truly, Madly, Guilty sadly misses the mark. The pages turn quickly but Moriarty’s modus operandi of an intricately woven storyline culminating in an explosive ending just isn’t there. And it is missed.
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Elizabeth's Rating: 2 ½ stars