A Story That Will Drive You “Truly Mad” with Questions

Two months have passed since the barbecue, but everyone is still trying to forget what happened and politely avoid each other: friends, neighbors, spouses. Something happened. How bad can it be? Did someone die? No, that can’t be it, but whatever it is, it’s serious. Set in a Sydney suburb, this story reads like it could be any neighborhood in America.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty peeks into the lives of six adults who gathered for what was supposed to be an ordinary barbecue. This story is told in flashbacks. Each short chapter just leads to more questions, beginning with Clementine’s mysterious library speech and Erika’s awkwardness about the whole event. What was going on here? What was I missing?

Erika and Clementine are childhood friends, but their friendship has always been a little strained. As adults, there is looming tension, almost a sibling rivalry, caused by the amount of time Erika spends with Clementine’s mother, and now Erika is even starting to look like her mother.

Erika appears organized and composed at all times, living in a spotless house with her equally bland husband, Oliver. They’re active in sports and the outdoors, but very reserved. Erika has always been in Clementine’s shadow, envying her amazing life. Now all grown up, Erika is a simple accountant while Clementine has developed into quite the cellist.

Clementine is obsessed with practicing for her upcoming audition. Her husband, Sam, spends his time taking care of their bratty, young daughters, Ruby and Holly, while she practices endlessly. It’s a chaotic household, where shoes, shirts, toys, everything seems to just walk away on its own. Sam and Clementine have very different parenting skills which confuses the children. Is it OK to jump on the couch now or wait until Daddy leaves? Despite these small disagreements, they adore each other. It comes as such a relief when they are invited to a barbecue by Erika’s neighbor, Vid, and escape from an afternoon of polite chit chat with Erika and Oliver.

Vid is the over-the-top, wealthy, next door neighbor with a need for a good time and enjoys when his guests are feeling just as delighted. He is married to a voluptuous woman, Tiffany, who can’t get people to look past her body and see the wonderful wife and mom she is. She is disappointed by constantly being dismissed by others. Their daughter Dakota is adorable. Somewhere around junior high age, the little bookworm can open a book and ignore the rest of the world, so unlike her social butterfly mother.

Back to the mystery. What I thought was one mystery has now turned into two — no, three, and I’m not sure where this story is going. Who is the main character? At first, I thought I knew, but I have become so deeply involved in the lives of these friends (are they friends?) that I’m not sure anymore. Whatever happened, Clementine feels compelled to tell her story and relive the moment, Erika is overwhelmed by her lack of memory, and Sam wants to forget it ever happened. Clementine wishes they never went to the barbecue, while Vid is being strangely silent. While I unraveled the mystery of that night, it only raised more questions.

There is a long build up in this story to the mystery: what happened between Erika and Clementine, what happened between Sam and Clementine. I was guessing along as I was reading. It was a little difficult to keep going and the promise that one of these chapters would reveal what really happened strung me along to the end. I kept waiting for something to be revealed. What I got instead were little twists and turns until finally it was clear what happened and it was a better ending than I expected. One of the difficulties with getting through this book is that it will get in your head and make you ponder about the deeper issues of marriage. Overall, a moving story that still lingers with me.

Cost: $0.00 through Overdrive

Drink of Choice: Skinny Caramel Soy Latte


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