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Truly Madly Guilty Paperback – July 25, 2017
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Used good condition; sustained some water damage but no torn pages. Read once.
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That's the premise for this book. From the start we know that something significant has happened. We know that Erika has problems remembering it, that Clementine doesn't want to think about it, that their husbands are struggling with their feelings. But it will take until over the halfway mark - a looong time - before we find out what happened and after all that build up and suspense the truth is more than a little anticlimatic. Even then, Moriarty teases us with the idea that there is more to be revealed, and while this is true, it's not enough and not sufficiently important. Essentially, it's a book that's structured on a flimsy base.
There are glimpses here and there of Moriarty's trademark humor and relatable characters but somehow I didn't warm to the story as I have to others that she's written.
Leaving a plot synopsis to the “book report” reviews, the main failing for me was Ms. Moriarty’s inability to generate a compelling storyline for any of the book’s main characters. Yes, the friendship between Clementine and Erika was interesting enough, Clementine’s marriage to Sam, and Erika’s to Oliver, were both engaging but never compelling, while Vid and Tiffany provided occasional welcome relief and at least helped drive the plot forward, but in general, the story that moves “Truly Madly Guilty” forward is very thin and sorely lacking in depth. If an author isn’t creating something that draws his or her audience in, something that makes the reader want to pick up the book (fiction or nonfiction) and continue reading to see how a plot will resolve, or to learn more about a topic, then there is no connection to the book and reading becomes work. For me, finishing “TMG” became a chore.
Ms. Moriarty provides far too many details in far too many subplots, with little point and no satisfaction in the end. Yes, “TMG” could be viewed as a careful character study of how a marriage and friendships react to life, but it never comes close to visiting those heights and depths and the novel barely leaves the ground. For all of the detail, the character development fails to bring the people on the page to life and it never made me care about them. If this is “pop fiction”, then it is a bad example of the genre. By way of comparison, Kristin Hannah, who is also often classified as a popular author with a similar target audience, has shown more than once that a well-written book with a compelling plot and well developed characters can easily transcend the stereotypes of any genre and make a novel difficult to put down.
Unfortunately, while it has occasional moments of poignancy, “TMG” never achieves any kind of flow and, rather that looking forward to picking it up, when I finished, I was quite glad to put it down for the last time. “Truly Madly Guilty” lives up to two-thirds of its name as a truly guilty example of the kind of book that helps give popular fiction a bad name.
(Please note that I was provided with an uncorrected digital galley of this book by Flatiron Books in return for my honest opinion.)
I enjoy an author slowly building characters and relationships, but not when there are so many references to someone not being able to forget that barbecue without saying why, or someone who wishes they'd never gone to that barbecue, but not saying why. Moriarty lays the foreboding on thick, but teases her readers for over two hundred pages before letting us in on the secret! Two hundred pages is fine for a plot twist, but not for the central theme that motivates every character for the whole novel.
Do you want to know what the tragedy is? Because I think the book reads better if you know it from the beginning. Three couples attend a barbecue at which one of their small children has a serious accident and they all blame themselves and each other. They go through various levels of self-recrimination and resentment for enjoying the party and not paying enough attention to the children. It's not such a tragedy that it really merits the 250-page build-up and I wonder if Moriarty's draft wasn't more linear and her publisher rearranged it to make it more tantalizing. Moriarty's an excellent writer. Her story doesn't need a gimmicky hook to keep us reading, but this novel is structured as if it does.
Other books by this author have more integrity than this. Read those.