In my Australian accent; What bloody happened at The Barbecue?
Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty is a fictional piece infused with dark humor and covers the complexes of everyday relationships among friends, married couples, parents and their kids. Set against the backdrop of the suburbia in Sydney’s Australia and centered around 6 adults, the book could be easily labeled a psychological thriller, likening it to her previous masterpiece Big Little Lies. So successful was the book that it was adapted for the big screen (HBO) by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.
Similar to Big Little Lies where we only get to find out why and who ended up dead at the very end, the author likewise hints at a life changing incident at The Barbecue which is the focal point of the novel. Clementine, a classical cellist gearing up for a big audition, and her affable husband Sam, are parents to two small daughters Holly and Ruby. Obsessively compulsed Erika, Clementine’s childhood friend, and her by the book husband Oliver are childless perfectionists, and Oliver and Erika’s neighbors Vid and Tiffany, the hosts of The Barbecue, are the outgoing, successful parents to 10-year-old moody Dakota.
Right off the very start of the book, we get a glimpse into the tortured relationship dynamics that exist between Clementine and Erika. Erika’s mean and humorous running commentaries parallel to Clementine’s public talk form the foundation of the story, with both women chafing with frustration and irritation, sometimes both, at each other. It becomes even juicier when we learn that they are supposed to be best friends since their childhood. Erika had a difficult childhood, and Clementine’s mother more or less forced her daughter to befriend Erika, an obligation that still weighs heavily in their adulthood.
Liane weaves her storytelling with shifting time swaps that encompass flashbacks and fast forwards of The Day Of The Barbecue. What exactly that incident is isn’t revealed until well within the novel, but what we learn about each of these characters both pre- and post-barbecue is the life force of Ms. Moriarty’s masterpiece. Also interesting is how the past intertwines with the present and goes on to affect their future relationships.
The common thread visible from well-drawn cast showcases that we are not as different as we would imagine – people die, families argue, neighbors meddle and children push boundaries.
Reading this book I experienced mixed feelings of elation, confusion, sympathy, selfishness, rage, regret, complacency and frustration at the characters. Specifically intriguing is how I could hate a character in one chapter and pity her in the next and champion her by the end of the book. Such is the magic of Liane Moriarty. I am definitely on the lookout for more of her published work. It truly is a maddening guilty pleasure.