Originally published August 2016
Any parent will tell you—mistakes happen all the time.
Most of the time, it’s no harm, no foul. Someone falls down and scrapes their knee while you were in the bathroom. A trip to the pediatrician uncovers an errant Lego in your 3-year-old’s ear. Shoot, between my three kids, I’ve been a non-witness to a burned hand, stitches to the forehead, a broken foot … Parenting is a contact sport and you’re going to miss a few plays. It’s just not physically possible to play the entire game without a break once in a while.
But it’s those rare occasions when we let our observation skills slide for just a second, and something bad happens. A serious injury. Or a kid goes missing at the park or the pool. It’s those instances which fill us with dread first, then guilt second, even long after all is well and forgiveness has been granted.
It’s that premise upon which bestselling author Liane Moriarty bases her current hit, “Truly Madly Guilty” — a tale of three couples, three kids and a backyard barbecue that gets away from everyone.
Here is what I like so much about Moriarty’s writing: She often juggles multiple storylines in her novels. Yet, it never feels too claustrophobic or disjointed. In this case, there’s the overarching storyline of just what the heck went down in Vid and Tiffany’s backyard, and the guilt that consumes them all. But there’s more to it than just that—it’s Tiffany’s insecurity and Vid’s love for her regardless of her past. It’s Erika and Oliver’s struggle with infertility and Erika’s crazy-ass hoarding mother. It’s Sam and Clementine’s disintegrating marriage and their own personal struggles with self-doubt. And it’s Erika’s and Clementine’s lifelong friendship facing its most serious test yet.
Because Moriarty can weave together so many elements at once, the story never feels like it is dragging — even when it takes half the book to discover what happens at the barbecue. Readers that like to try to solve mysteries before the author reveals it should be able to deduce the event in general, but it doesn’t make it any less compelling.
Anyone with OCD is going to relate to Erika, and moms that feel like they are just hanging on will most likely be endeared to Clementine. Regardless, there’s a character for everyone to cheer for in this very readable, great-for-a-long-weekend kind of book.
Spoiler alert: I wish we’d been granted a little more access to Vid and Tiffany in the sense I think we’re supposed to kind of adore Vid, but of all the adults, he is the most cartoonish. And poor Harry—while his storyline is wrapped up nicely toward the end, it seems like we’re missing a little more depth. It would have been nice to have a larger window into his world.
If you’re looking for that last ditch summer read, this is a go-to novel. Get reading.