Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

c2b3-square-origFiction — audiobook. Read by Caroline Lee. Macmillian Audio, 2016. 17 hours, 20 minutes. Library copy. 

Clementine and Erika have been best friends since childhood. While their lives have taken different turns over the years — Clementine has two little girls, Erika has always said she doesn’t want kids — the two women always make an effort to get together now and then.

When Erika mentions that her neighbors, Vid and Tiffany, want to host Clementine’s family and Erika’s at a barbecue, Clementine agrees. After all, Vid and Tiffany are gregarious, social people with a little girl of their own — a far cry from the stiff formality of Erika and her husband, Oliver.

What happens at that barbecue changes the lives of all three families, though. Vid and Tiffany’s little girl is tearing up her beloved book collection. Erika cannot recall the events of that night, much to the shame of her husband. And Clementine’s marriage is on the rocks as her husband Sam has moved into the study and started suggesting that maybe they should separate.

Jumping back and forth from the night of the barbecue to the two months since, Moriarty draws out the events of that night and leaves the reader to guess what could have occurred. An affair? A crime? It’s an style she’s employed before (when I started the audiobook, I had a moment where I wondered if I had already read this one), and one that started to wear on me at the beginning of the novel.

The current day wasn’t nearly as intriguing as the past, and the information about the present seemed rather unnecessary until the events of that night were explained. Only then did I feel for Clementine over the collapse of her marriage and her inability to prepare for her cello audition. Only then did I understand why Erika felt uncomfortable around Clementine.

Yet the intrigue was enough to keep me going, to keep me looking for time to sneak a few minutes here and there to listen to the audiobook while at work. And the revelation of what happened was shocking without being gory or obvious or unnecessarily heavy, which isn’t something I can always say about Moriarty’s books.

But this one could have been about a hundred pages shorter. There are a lot of revelations at the end — one about the neighbor, one about Clementine’s eldest daughter — that seemed superfluously added. Extra ways of manipulating the reader’s emotions without need or payoff to the story. Had these additions to the story been lopped off, I might have said this is my favorite of the books she’s written that I’ve read.

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