Tag Archives: drowning

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

When my book club was looking for some lighter fare to read I suggested Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty since I have enjoyed her other novels, and then when the regular study leader could not attend, I volunteered to facilitate. Since I was leading the book discussion, I took a more indepth approach to this novel, both reading the book and listening to the audiotape expertly narrated by Christine Lee. (Yes, some might argue the subject of this particular title isn’t actually in the “fluffy” category, but please note that we had been reading a series of books dealing with subjects such as the Holocaust, the War in Sarajevo, plus the Shakespearean Tragedy MacBeth.)

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the overall reaction was mixed which was also reflected in the numerous reviews I found on Goodreads. Perhaps I can’t change anyone’s mind as to the worthiness of this title, but I can attempt to give everyone an appreciation of Moriarty’s skill in developing the plot.

I presented this as a circular story where the reader is fed bits of information alternating between the past, present, and future in order to develop a complete understanding of the fateful incident at the barbecue. Even better was the suggestion of one of the book club members who called it a mosaic, or a puzzle which we put together as the story progresses, not seeing the entire picture until the very end. Either way, it took a lot of skill to pull it off, with every segment having an underlying meaning as it connected to the whole.

There are two components to the book, a “big” reveal and a series of smaller reveals. Many readers felt the build up to the incident at the barbecue which was not divulged until 60% through the book, was anticlimactic, as if disappointed that the event wasn’t even more tragic. However, it’s those small secrets which truly make this an excellent read. Moriarty’s real genius is the way she develops her characters. As their foibles are disclosed, we get to know them intimately so they become alive in our minds, especially since each of the characters gets to “speak” making the reader aware of their personal thoughts and motivations.

Like in real life, the relationships are complicated. Erica and Clementine’s close friendship involves mixed feelings of resentment and jealousy, but also an intimacy only found between people who have grown up together since childhood. While the marriage between Erica and Oliver is one between two soulmates, Clementine and Sam’s witty banter indicates a love in spite of their frequent spats, often involving their two young children Holly and Ruby. Add in some flashy, gregarious neighbors along with a grumpy old man who finds fault with life itself, plus some “interesting” parent(s), and you have 410 pages or 13 hours of reading pleasure.

Guilt is the theme, as each of the “cast” members has to deal with both the repercussions from the barbecue as well as the angst found in everyday life, while the resolutions from that fateful day changes the dynamics of the couples, leaning towards a promise of healthier future relationships.

With the successful mini series based on Moriarty’s book Big Little Lies being optioned for a second season, keep your eyes on the look out for Truly Madly Guilty to hit the big or small screen as well, especially since Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman have purchased the film rights. One wonders if they will once again change the setting from Australia to California.

Four stars.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

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The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

All we know is that Tanya Dubois is on the run and that she didn’t kill her husband, he fell down the stairs, hit his head, and died. Slowly as the narrative progresses we discover that Tanya has a past life which continues to haunt her. Via email conversations, we gather she is wanted for murder in her old home town and her former lover keeps her informed on the skuttkebutt which might be of interest. He’s the only means she has to connect to her past – he “owes” her, but the hows and whys are a mystery. Lisa Lutz takes us in a journey as Tanya tries to once again establish a new life under a new name in the novel Passengers.

Labeled a psychological thriller, the reader is kept in the dark so that unexpected events come as a surprise. At her first stop, Tanya, now Amelia, frequents a bar run by Blue who knows a thing or two about maintaining a disguise. Whether this relationship helps or hinders Tanya’s cause is a matter of opinion. In any event, you can tell by the chapter headings that names are frequently swapped out to enable a fresh start when there is even a hint that her past might be revealed. Tanya travels back and forth across the country, always discovering convenient dives where her drink of choice changes to meet her current persona. This is where she meets the majority of individuals who have an impact on her adventure, for better or worse (usually worse). The conclusion has a few surprises and some events which tarnish what could have been a perfect Happily Ever After Ending.

The plot moved along at a quick pace and it was interested how Tanya changed her appearance with each new identity, but the concept of living on the run was anything but glamorized. My body ached along with hers at the numerous hovels she visited to survive on a minimal cash flow. Ten years on the run did not seem to lead to much wisdom and I question some of her actions, because for such a nice girl, she was forced into some bad situations where her reactions weren’t so nice at all.

On the plus side was some witty dialogue, but clever doesn’t trump over the top plot twists used to add suspense to an otherwise straight forward story. In additional, the big reveal at the end of the book was so obvious I wouldn’t call it a surprise. Less scene changes and more character development would have been an improvement, but overall, a quick, light read. Three stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

The Woman In Cabin Ten by Ruth Ware

You are on the maiden voyage of a miniature luxury cruise ship with only ten other passengers and a dozen or so crew members when late one evening you hear a splash and witness what you believe is a drowning body in the sea below. What’s worse is that the cabin next door where you had previously met a beautiful young woman is now totally devoid of any occupancy. Yet when you give a cry for help, nobody takes you seriously. You’re just a paranoid guest doped up on pills and booze whose imagination has run away with her.

This is the premise of The Woman In Cabin Ten by Ruth Ware in what has been labeled a psychological thriller. Laura Blacklock is definitely at a crossroads in her life, needing to decide whether to take her relationship with boyfriend Judah to the next level as well as find a way to advance her career as a features writer for Velocity, a travel magazine. When her boss Rowan has to relinquish her spot on the Aurora, owned by the prestigious couple Lord Richard Bullmer and his heiress wife Anne, Lo sees this as an opportunity to prove herself with the added bonus of a chance to temporarily replace the editor when she goes on maternity leave. All Lo has the do is write a positive article about the voyage (to encourage potential advertising in their publication) plus a few human interest stories about the other passengers which include a photographer, a food critic, a travel enthusiast, some fellow journalists, including one who happens to be an exboyfriend, a couple of financiers, and a fashion model, as well as the host and hostess promoting their new investment – a high end cruise for hire. Yet on their way from London through the North Sea to Norway to catch a glimpse of the wondrous Aurora Borealis, Lo, suffering from lack of sleep due to some tragic personal events on the mainland, finds herself unable to concentrate on the task at hand, especially after witnessing what by all appearances looks to be a murder, but the louder she cries the less she seems to be heard. As details about her background come to light, even the reader begins to question her sanity.

The twists and turns of the plot are not easily foreseen and the reader is entertained right up to the last paragraph. While there were a few sections which were a bit confusing, they did not distract from the overall effect. I did question the capability of Lo as a journalist since she wasn’t very good at schmoozing with her fellow passengers, but this could perhaps explain her lack of advancement in the field. Ware cleverly uses a touch of modern technology to advance the plot in this quick read which is guaranteed to keep your attention throughout.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Gallery/Scout Press for providing an ARC in exchange for a honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.