Review: Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty)


Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 460

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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.

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I was pretty excited when Truly Madly Guilty was published mid of last year. I’ve heard so many great things about Liane Moriarty. And when I read Big Little Lies, my review here, I got hooked on her writing! By the way, I’ve yet to watch the HBO series of Big Little Lies but I know it’s awesome so I can’t wait to watch it soon!

Liane Moriarty is one hell of a talented writer. She writes speculative fiction so well that I breezed through Big Little Lies because it was that good. So when I received Truly Madly Guilty for review, I couldn’t help but to be excited!

Unfortunately Truly Madly Guilty didn’t really meet my expectations and I was left a bit deflated when I finished the last page. But while it wasn’t as good as Big Little Lies, I still enjoyed Truly Madly Guilty and there were some elements of the book in which I enjoyed.

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The plot to this one wasn’t as dramatic or exciting as I was hoping. The plot jumps back and forth between present and the past. All of the scenes were told in various points of view (PoV) from the 6 adults and one of the three children involved at the barbecue. The story starts in the present where it’s 2 months post-barbecue and things have apparently gone bad. 70% of the book consists of writing leading up to the tragedy that occurred during the barbecue. As you’re reading it, you’re prompted by the sequence of events to try to guess what really went wrong.  And to be honest, I did figure out the tragedy, but boy I didn’t see the plot twist coming. So that kind of saved the entire book for me. Otherwise, it would have been a total bore for being so predictable.

You get a good mix of suburban drama and friendship problems between the 6 adults in consequence of the barbecue tragedy. Moriarty writes so well in a way that grips you into the story, and while I didn’t find this one as exciting as Big Little Lies, I was still breezing through the pages figuring out the ending. And lets face it, we all love privileged self-entitled white people getting into scandals creating a terrible mess of their lives. And Moriarty delivers a good amount of that in Truly Madly Guilty.

“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.” 

I especially liked the problems these adults faced. The 6 adults consists of 3 married couples, and each couple faces their own set of struggles and problems. Underneath the perfect image they built around their lives, we see trouble lurks and they’re one step away from losing control. Whilst it may not be the high-drama you expect, the problems faced by each of these couples are realistic and representative of the challenges marriages in general face. We see how parenthood isn’t as easy as one might think, and we also see the problematic friendship between Erika and Clementine that was cemented since an early age. Erika is also the child of a hoarder, and it was especially fascinating to see how that impacted her life choices and mental well-being.

Reading how the adults struggle to keep afloat and figure out the next step was interesting. Because it made me realise that even adults don’t have everything together. Even they screw up sometimes.

And I found this reassuring.

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I am in love with Erika and her husband Oliver! The two outcasts, geeks and introverts in this story with their love of spreadsheets. Gosh I just want to wrap them in warm, fuzzy blankets and keep them safe!

The two geeks who felt left out at a small barbecue party.

Man, can I relate to characters like these.

“Nobody felt embarrassed in front of nice geeky people. That’s why they were relaxing to be around.” 

My whole life was spent wondering what to say during social events and then being embarrassed for saying the something else. So Erika and Oliver have a special place in my heart. Reading about their relationship and the troubles they faced made me appreciate their characters even more.

On top of that, Erika and Clementine’s friendship are a huge element of Truly Madly Guilty where it questions how far a friendship goes before one begins to questions its intentions. Pushed to become best friends by Clementine’s mother from an early age, resentment and jealousy are much too familiar emotions wedged deep into the friendship.  Eventually we see how this problematic relationship contributed to the tragedy of the barbecue.

But because of the tragedy at the barbecue, we begin to see a character growth in Erika. From a timid girl keen on relying on her best friend without question, we slowly see how Erika deals with the tragedy in her own unique way. Seeing Erika accept herself as an entity without Clementine was such a wonderful thing to witness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel any deep connection with the other characters asides from Erika and Oliver. Because the chapters change so quickly over so many PoVs, there was a lack of understanding for the characters and their positions. I truly have no interest for the remaining 4 adults. They seemed aloof and without much depth into their characters.

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Overall, it’s a pleasant read but nothing special that I could hold on to. I’ve another title by Moriarty in my unread pile, so I hope that will be more enjoyable than this.

Let me know if you’ve read this before!

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!


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