Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty
Truly Madly Guilty took me a while to read . . . I think because it was a serious, heavy book. I was on edge for a good 2/3rds of the book because I was so scared to learn “what happened at the barbecue.” And each of the couples’ relationships were on edge, which made me on edge. So, it wasn’t an enjoyable book to read. However, there was so much good in this book and I loved how the ending came full circle and wrapped the story up (thank goodness!!). Moriarty’s writing was a force and so compelling that I didn’t consider putting the book down (even though I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying it). The story and what the characters go through is so real, especially being someone in a similar walk of life (I have been married over 6 years and have 2 kids). I’m glad I read it, but I can’t say I really loved it.
Spoilers: Truly Madly Guilty follows three couples whose lives are changed forever at a barbecue. Erika and Oliver are immaculate, ordered and childless, despite multiple rounds of IVF. Erika’s best friend, Clementine (a cellist) and her husband, Sam, have two children: Holly and Ruby. Erika invites them over for dinner, but plans get derailed when her neighbor Vid invites all of them over to have a barbecue with his wife, Tiffany, and their daughter Dakota. The night gets off to a rough start when Erika and Oliver ask Clementine to donate her eggs so they can have a baby, and Clementine is not immediately thrilled. The barbecue starts off great with Dakota watching the two little girls and the 3 couples talking/drinking/flirting. But then things get tragic when Ruby falls into a fountain and almost drowns before the adults notice . . . eventually Erika notices and she and Oliver do CPR and save Ruby’s life. The couples must then deal with the aftermath and learn how to move on. Vid and Tiffany destroy the fountain and realize months after the event that Dakota has been blaming herself for the accident and punishing herself by taking away her most loved activity: reading. When it all comes out, they meet with Clementine and the girls and Dakota stops blaming herself and they move on. Erika and Oliver move on quickly, but struggle with their inability to have a baby and Clementine’s obvious distaste to give up her eggs (even though she doesn’t want more children), and apparent willingness to do so only because Erika and Oliver saved Ruby. Erika also struggles with her mother’s hoarding issues and how they are psychologically affecting her. Sam and Clementine suffer the worse and their marriage is struggling to stay afloat. They become more and more distant until they take a CPR class, where Sam breaks down and they realize he has PTSD. It’s only when he realizes this and decides to get help that their marriage starts to get back on track. While all of this is going on, one of Erika and Tiffany’s elderly, grumpy neighbors, Harry, is found dead at the bottom of his stairs (months after he died) by Oliver and Tiffany, and the two neighbors feel guilty and responsible, even though it was an accident. The entire book is told in the present from all of the character’s perspectives, with flashbacks to the barbecue interspersed throughout. At the very end you learn that on the night of the barbecue, Holly pushed Ruby into the fountain because Ruby took Holly’s stones (they are 5 and 3 years old). Harry sees Ruby first and tries to get Erika’s attention, but because she is tipsy, it takes her forever to realize what he’s gesturing at, so Harry races down the stairs to save Ruby, only to fall to his death. Erika finally realizes what’s going on and is the first to notice Ruby and get to her. Each of the characters feel their own level of guilt and deal with it in their own way. Thankfully, Ruby was saved with no negative long term effects. And, really, it ends quite happily for everyone.
Summing it up: Truly Madly Guilty was a good book. It was real, and dealt with serious issues, but it was good. Maybe read it in between light, feel-good books! 😉
All the best, Abbey