A fraught friendship lies at the heart of Liane Moriarty’s domestic drama, Truly Madly Guilty. The trigger for the story is an impromptu barbecue on a Sunday afternoon where something happens that has lasting consequences for three couples.
The friendship is between Erika and Clementine. Erika is an accountant, married to a colleague, Oliver. She’s intense and serious. She and Oliver have no children. Clementine is a cellist, married to Sam, with two young daughters, Holly and Ruby.
Erika and Clementine’s friendship is fraught because of their history. Now in their thirties, the women have known each other since childhood. Their respective mothers, Pat and Sylvia, contribute to the imbalance in their friendship.
Erika’s mother, Sylvia, is an eccentric hoarder whose compulsive behaviour causes problems for her neighbours and is a burden for Erika and Oliver.
With the help of a therapist, Erika develops coping mechanisms but Sylvia continues to have a negative impact on her daughter’s adult life.
Clementine’s mother, Pat, sympathises and even provides practical support to help Erika manage Sylvia. Clementine, however, resents her mother’s interest in her friend.
What began as an unequal childhood friendship, continues to be unequal in their adult lives. Yet Erika and Clementine remain close. So close, in fact, that on the day of the barbecue Erika feels able to ask her friend for a very personal favour.
Truly Madly Guilty hinges on what happens on that Sunday afternoon when Vid, a neighbour, invites Oliver and Erika to a barbecue and Erika and Oliver extend the invitation to Clementine and Sam. As a result, all three couples end up in Vid’s back garden on the fateful day.
The story flips back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the present. As Moriarty peels back the layers, we learn more and more about the individual characters.
Vid is talkative, brash and outgoing with a pre-teen daughter, Dakota. Tiffany, is his second wife.
The barbecue begins as an informal gathering. Vid and Tiffany hit it off with Clementine and Sam and, at first, everything goes smoothly. Then, a single moment changes everything. As a result, there are powerful consequences for Erika and Oliver, Clementine and Sam, and to a lesser extent, Vid and Tiffany as well.
Tiffany is a former pole dancer with a knack for understanding what makes people tick. She plays an interesting role as an agent of change in Truly Madly Guilty. She’s even with Oliver when he discovers that their cranky elderly neighbour Harry has died.
Ordinary events, extraordinary consequences
Ordinary events sometimes have extraordinary consequences. As a result of events at the barbecue, the fraught friendship between Erika and Clementine changes. The balance of power shifts and each of the women becomes stronger.
Australian author, Liane Moriarty has the knack of drawing interesting characters and providing believable insights into what makes them tick.
Moriarty has a strong fanbase for her novels like The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies. Truly Madly Guilty should appeal to anyone who enjoyed those earlier works.
If you like a good yarn about interesting people, Truly Madly Guilty could be a great holiday read. The chapters are short and there is enough suspense to keep you turning the pages.
In the UK, Michael Joseph is the publisher of Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. Disclosure: the publisher provided an advance copy for the purpose of this review.