“It was interesting that fury and fear could look so much the same.”
Truly Madly Guilty is a book that dug it’s way deep under my skin and planted itself firmly in my heart. It explores the idea of what can happen on an ordinary day. A day where a group of adults, neighbors and friends can get together and relax while their children play. A day that we all recognize for it’s uncomplicated similarity to days we’ve all lived through. A day that can turn complicated in the blink of an eye. A day where everything goes right until it all goes wrong.
Erika and Clementine have been friends since they were little. But from the very start, their friendship was developed with complicated terms. These complications haven’t left their friendship over the years, and so Erika and Clementine find themselves in a relationship of habit more than endearment. Except, perhaps thats too simple, too easy.
This novel is about more than just a day gone wrong. Truly Madly Guilty really tackles the complexity of relationships we have as adults. Marriages, friendships, neighbors, even parents, can sometimes be made up of so many layers, we lose track of them. At least, we can lose track of the heart of them.
“Somehow she knew there would be an unspoken truce on their unspoken battle over God knew what when they were old.”
What I find so fascinating about Liane Moriarty’s novels, or the few I’ve read, is how they really make us look at relationships from the outside looking in. She always shows us how these characters view someone else’s life, often with envy, and then she gives us a look into the reality. And, as is true in life, the truth is often shocking.
The novel gives us a chapter from varying perspectives, Erika and Clementine play prominent roles, but we also see the view from Tiffany and Vid, Erika’s neighbors; from Dakota, their daughter; from Harry, the other neighbor, from Oliver, Erika’s husband; and from Sam, Clementine’s husband. Each adult has their own unfolding of events from that day, but also has their own struggles; both from before the BBQ and after. Moriarty is brilliant in her ability to offer us all of these perspectives. She is masterful in her execution and you are never confused or left unfulfilled. If anything, every page leaves you wanting more.
Each personality contributed to the BBQ, and each character was left changed by it. This isn’t a suspense novel, but it is full of suspense. In order to make sense of these changes, you need to know what happens. But by not giving us the answer first, Moriarty forces us to look at each character in their full humanity. We are forced to get to know them before we can judge them.
By the end of the novel, I found myself in tears. It wasn’t the shocking events that unfolded, or the result of those events. It was more the heartbreaking depth of each character. You felt what they were going through. We feel for them because of their reactions rather than react to a situation. I found that interesting. How would we feel about certain events, if we knew the emotional outcome rather than the cause. If we had to know the people and not the events.
“So this is how it happens, a part of her thought as she rocked and begged. This is what it feels like. You don’t change. There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen.”
I could hear their reactions echo in my own friends and family. I could see the tragedy of events not known, and actions never taken. It is difficult to describe how much compassion you will feel at the end, because that was what I was struck with the most. Compassion. Understanding. Empathy.
I think we often judge first and ask questions second. And, I think this novel did an excellent job of slowing that judgement down. What would you do if these were your friends? If this was you? Because, the truth is, this novel could happen to anyone. That really struck me as very powerful.
Each word in the title is emphasized and clarified throughout the novel. As adults we often do feel true. True to ourselves, to our spouses, to our children. And sometimes we feel mad, and very often we feel guilty. These emotions and reactions are within each character in this novel. These words capture the essence of their struggle, both before and after that ordinary day.
I adored this novel, and am positive that this story will stay with me for a long time.
Thank you BookSparks and Flatiron books for sending me this beautiful novel in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!