First, the non-spoiler review: As with her other books I went into this blind-I knew I would read anything she writes and this was my most looked forward to book of the summer. I deliberately read nothing about it, so knew nothing to expect, which I love to do. I read this entire book in one day, which seems an unheard of extravagance, as well as a bit of a waste-why couldn’t I stretch it out and enjoy it longer? But it was a rainy Saturday and frankly, this book was hard for me to put down. If you read her other books, but particularly the previous one (something or other Lies) then you know Moriarty is very good at employing a technique of establishing right away something big has happened, but not quite coming out and telling you. She moved between “the day of the barbecue” to the present, 8 weeks after the barbecue. You see the terrible effects of whatever the incident was, but it takes a long time to find out. So, hard to put down because she builds up to it so effectively. As usual, I really enjoyed her writing, her ability to create that suspense, and her multi-dimensional very human characters and their points of view. Two people I know who’ve also read it (mom and Melissa) said they didn’t like it as much as her others. I can see that. If I was ranking all her books this wouldn’t be my favorite. However, I still loved it, couldn’t put it down, and thought it was great. I think that if you read her books not in publication order you wouldn’t necessarily give it that critique.
Now, I’m going to move on to some more detail which would/could spoil it if you haven’t read it, so move on if you like a blank slate when you read.
Having not read anything I didn’t know what the big event was going to be. I had a guess, which turned out to be correct, but I dismissed my initial thought because it didn’t seem quite right. There was so much sexual tension and discussion that it felt very Tom Perrotta. I kept thinking, do they all suddenly swing? Did someone do an inappropriate sexual act and a child saw? I was very tense about it being a sexually uncomfortable incident. In the end the sexual part was really not a big deal at all. I was most fascinated by all the, well I wouldn’t call them side stories or subplots, but the parts not having to do with the incident: Erika’s horrible childhood, her mother’s hoarding and mental illness, Erika and Oliver’s adult life as a reflection of their awful childhoods and their compulsive neatness, Clementine’s professional music career, Sam’s awful job, Harry the elderly neighbor and his nasty behavior and death. And then best and most impressive of all–how it all tied together and some of the surprise revelations at the end. I found myself wondering often about Clementine and Erika’s relationship and if they ever had a good time together, knowing how each perceived the other.
Another fantastic story by Moriarty!