As I've mentioned many times, the books I read for book club are pretty much the only books that I read anymore (other than the ones I listen to when I walk the dog). I rarely have time in between book club books to read other things. Every-so-often though, I do manage to enjoy something in addition to book club. Maybe eight months ago, I was introduced to author Liana Moriarty. While searching for something new to read on the library website, I came across The Husband's Secret. It had 5-star reviews so I put the book on hold. With about a billion people in front of me in the holds' line, I didn't think too much about it again until I got an email that the book had come available a couple months later. I quickly downloaded the book and started to read. In the midst of my slow, 5-minutes-a-night-before-dropping-the-book-on-my-head-and-falling-asleep reading, the new book club book was chosen, and it was What Alice Forgot ALSO by Moriarty. I had to put The Husband's Secret to the side and start on this new. But the thing is, I got through it very quickly AND finished The Husband's Secret in no time at all. That's unheard of for me! Because of Moriarty's subject matter and style of writing, I reserved the four remaining books (there are 6 in all) at the library and have since read those as well.
So what is her style and subject matter? On the surface, it's probably considered chick-lit. But as I've read them, I'm not so sure that is really her genre. And I have nothing against chick-lit. I've read/listened to all of Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" series, and spent summer after summer by the pool with Marian Keyes' newest (and anxiously awaited) paper back release. Chick-lit is fun and light to read. But the thing about chick-lit is that even though it's written about women, the women are not like me or any other women that I know. Becky Bloomwood from "Shopaholic" is a ding dong and Keyes's characters (while being a lot of fun) are very prettily packaged basket cases, neither of whom would successfully navigate through their life as well as they do in those books. That is the difference between chick-lit and Moriarty's books. They are written by a woman about women, but the women are far more realistic than the others in this genre. The women in her books are smart but not prettily packaged. They have good and bad days, but aren't defined by them. And what I think I like best about her characters is that they think like I think. These women have wicked senses of humor, and when their thought process is shared with the reader, it mostly mirrors the thoughts that go through my head in similar situations. There are laugh out loud moments because the characters
are so real and we (I) can relate to them far better than the chick-lit characters.
Moriarty's subject matter isn't anything too complicated. It's real life during a set period of time. Between point A and B, the events might be told with flashbacks to tell more of the story. I think the "real life" stories are what I like about these books best. Most of us go through our lives without some crazy, life altering event that is often the subject of books. We all have illness, birth, death, relationships, petty arguments, flaws, etc. in our lives, which is why these books ring so true to me. I would't call them light and fluffy, by any means, but they are fun and easy to read because of the humor and her ability to tell stories about regular women. While they tend to be supporting characters in her books, Moriarty also writes men realistically too. They're not written as the hero who always saves the day, but they are not written like idiotic buffoons or jerks either - usually the choices in chick-lit. I read an article about the author awhile back, and a man commented the following, "Another book by a woman, for women, about how women are abused, battered and put down by all those evil, nasty, beer-swilling, footy-watching, knuckle-dragging men who do not possess an ounce of decency between the lot of them." Clearly, this man hadn't read her books. Instead, her male characters are sometimes part of the problem, sometimes part of the solution, and sometimes simply a good natured support system for a woman who is trying to navigate a difficult event in her life. Two of my favorite Liane Moriarty chracters are men. In fact, two members of my book club are men, and they both enjoyed What Alice Forgot, even relating to the male/female relationships in the book. I know they both also picked up a couple others by Moriarty, so they were not offended by the male characters.
Moriarty's books are not written in sequential order. Each are stories in their own right and do not share any characters, so they can be read in any order. I've been asked which is my favorite, and I can't really say. I've truly enjoyed each and every one and have recommended reading ANYTHING by the author instead of picking a favorite. In lieu of a review, here is a synopsis of each, in the order I have read them...
The Husband's Secret
Cecilia, a busy mom and wife, stumbles upon a letter written by her husband to be opened only in the event of his death. At the same time, Tess moves to Sydney with her young son, after finding out her husband wants to leave her for her cousin. Both Cecila's and Tess's children attend a school in Sydney where Rachel is the school secretary. Rachel's daughter was murdered almost 30 years before, but no one was ever charged for the crime. The three women's lives become intertwined after Cecila opens the letter.
What Alice Forgot
Alice passed out and hit her had while working out at the gym. When she comes to, her last memories are of her as a newly married 29 year old woman who is hopelessly in love with her husband. However, she's actually a bitter 40 year old with three kids embroiled in a spiteful divorce. Her support system as she remembers it is no longer in tact due to her behavior. She tries to put the pieces of her life back together while still holding onto her only memories.
Cat, Gemma, and Lyn are triplets who are celebrating their 34th birthday together out a restaurant. The celebration turns into a terrible fight with one ending up in the hospital. The story flashbacks through their 33rd year leading up to the birthday events. The sisters struggle through jobs, family, relationships, handling things differently each with a unique personality.
The Hypnotist's Love Story
Ellen is a licensed hypnotherapist in her 30s who is on a blind (internet) date with Patrick. Patrick disappears into the bathroom once the meal arrives and is gone for quite some time. When he returns to the table, he tells Ellen that he's having a very nice time and likes her so feels like he needs to be honest with her...he has a stalker. His ex-girlfriend, Saskia, is the stalker. She followed him to the restaurant, and he had to leave the table to go tell her to get lost. Ellen and Patrick's relationship story is told through third person, while Saskia's story is told in first. As it turns out, Ellen actually knows Saskia. This first part of the book - the wheels spinning in Ellen's head while Patrick has left the table and after he tells her about his stalker - is probably the most fun in all the books. I laughed out loud because it was a very real reaction to an absurd situation. Also noted, Patrick is one of my two favorites of Moriarty's male characters. Even though I don't have a favorite, I did like this one a lot, maybe because related to Ellen most out of all the characters.
Big Little Lies
Helicopter parents tell the story of a death that takes place during an elementary school fundraising event. The accounts of the evening are told from multiple perspectives during detective witness interviews. Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are close friends and at the center of a lot of drama at their children's school. They are also at the center of the tragic death.
The Last Anniversary
I just finished this one last night...finally! Sophie dumped Thomas three years ago, on the day he was going to propose. He has since been married and has a new baby while Sophie, at 39, has remained single. Thomas appears in her life again when she unexpectedly inherits his Aunt Connie's house on Scribbly Island. This island is the home to the unsolved mystery from over fifty years ago of an abandoned baby. At first the family objects to her inheritance (after breaking Thomas's heart), but Sophie does move into the house and because part of this Scribbly Island family. While Sophie is the main character, several supporting characters (Aunt Connie's eccentric family) also deal with life. There are a lot of twist and turns in the story, too many to summarize. It was a fun book to read, but out of the six books it's not at the top of my list. I'd recommend reading one of the others first, but if you like her books this one will be good too.
It's kind of disappointing to have read all the books as I don't have anymore to look forward to.
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