It's time for a little more in-depth discussion of all things Liane Moriarty! Last week I ranked Moriarty novels from the good to the better, and now I'm back for the best of the best.
4. NINE PERFECT STRANGERS
By Liane Moriarty
NINE PERFECT STRANGERS absolutely should not work as a book. Though it’s about nine people at health resort, the book takes the perspective of eleven different characters, and that’s really too many. There is very little in the way of plot; in fact, I’m going to give you the entire plot of the book right here: Nine people go to a health retreat to attempt to detox and fix various problems in their lives. At the end, they go home. There you go! There’s the whole plot!
But, of course, that’s not the whole book. This one’s actually pretty polarizing, because if you love a Moriarty book for the character complexity and backstory, you’ll love this one. If you love her books for the plot and the mysteries, there’s a good chance you’ll hate it. I’m in it for the characters, so I’m all in for this one. The writing is wonderful; the characters are distinct and interesting and I’m here for all of their drama and all of their non-conventional healing.
There's not so much of a driving mystery in this one like you'll find in BIG LITTLE LIES or TRULY MADLY GUILTY, but I finished it in two days and I work full time and have two small children that I still spent time with so I think it's safe to describe it as un-put-down-able (a phrase I’m actually surprised I haven’t used yet in this list, as it fairly well describes all Moriarty’s books for me).
This one is probably Moriarty’s second-best-known book, and it’s great. If you’re interested in her books because you love a good domestic mystery, you’ll like this one.
Celia Fitzpatrick seems to have it all together, but when she finds a letter from her husband to be opened in the event of his death, her life—and the lives of two other women—are inevitably turned upside down, as the letter contains her husband’s deepest, darkest secret, and that secret affects them all in various ways. Celia’s husband—who is still very much alive—begs her not to read the letter, but I’m just going to spoil it for you, she does. And things change.
THE HUSBAND’S SECRET follows three women and their lives, and though one of them feels only tangentially related to the other two, they’re still all interesting stories to explore. I would read a novel about any one of these women, so getting to hear from all three of them is great.
Here are some of the things in store for you if you read this book: a murder investigation gone cold; marital intrigue; inexplicably successful Tupperware parties; snooty private school parents; hot cross buns. And, of course, all the things that a Moriarty fan will love about Moriarty novels: great internal dialogue, witty banter between characters, juicy secrets, and complicated relationships.
For many people, this is the first (and only) book they read by Liana Moriarty, and I can’t say that I can argue with that. This should be the first one you read, even though it’s not my very favorite.
BIG LITTLE LIES has all the things going for it: three intertwined stories of women in differing circumstances; a big driving mystery; unlikely connections between characters; drama, drama, drama. It’s easy to see why this is the one that was picked up to be an HBO miniseries (which I refuse to see because there are a few things in the book that I don’t want to see on a screen, and also because I know of at least one notable change they made in one of the character’s lives and I AM NOT OKAY WITH IT). The writing is Moriarty at her best, and the fact that this is the book she’s known for doesn’t bother me at all.
One of my favorite things about BIG LITTLE LIES is the way that the scale of the drama changes for each character. There’s Madeline, who is dealing with sort of typical family drama: her teenage daughter is starting to prefer spending time with Madeline’s ex-husband and his new Yogini wife, and Madeline is feeling (understandably) betrayed by the situation. There’s beautiful, wealthy Celeste, whose life looks perfect from the outside but inside is filled with domestic abuse. And then there’s Jane, a young single mom harboring secrets she won’t share and connected to these women in ways none of them realize. The drama in the book isn’t always drama with a capital “D”; we have characters upset about abuse, and we have characters upset about teenage angst, and none of it is trivialized.
If you’re going to read one, it should be this one. But I urge you to read at least two, because next on the list we’ve got…
And that leaves me with what has ended up being one of my favorite books ever, because in addition to containing all the things I love about a typical Moriarty novel, this one has a significant amount of substance and the ability to cause you to examine your own life and relationships and think about how you treat those closest to you. It shows us that relationships take work, but that it’s the kind of work that’s most worth doing.
Here’s the premise: When Alice is 39 years old, she falls and hits her head and completely forgets the last 10 years of her life. When she wakes up, she thinks that she is 29, madly in love with her husband, and expecting her first child. To her surprise, she finds herself in a thinner body, in the middle of a messy divorce, and the mother of three children she does not know.
If anyone tells you this isn’t Moriarty’s best book, they are just wrong. Watching Alice come to terms with herself and her life, and trying to uncover how her relationships have or have not changed in the 10 years that she’s forgotten is at times hilarious but mostly just thought-provoking. You find yourself coming back to the same questions she’s asking: “What have I done in the last 10 years? Would 10-years-ago-me even recognize this life I’ve built? Would I be proud? Ashamed? How will the next 10 years change me?”
There is a bit of a mystery in this book, and there is certainly family drama, but it’s really on a smaller scale, and it’s all the more profound for it. The experience ends up transforming Alice’s life for the better, just as I promise reading it will transform yours.
As a teenager, it’s difficult to find fun things to do that also feel like a responsible use of time. Look no further! Your very own Provo Library has a Teen Volunteer Board and we need you!
What are you waiting for? Print out a Teen Volunteer Board application and bring it to the meeting on the first Thursday of the month in our Shaw Programming Room! For more information, call 801-852-6661.
If you have a child that doesn’t like the doctor, then you’re not alone. There are a lot of children who are scared to visit the doctor’s office. It can be frightening: strange metal objects, foreign smells, and weird noises are enough to give anyone reason to pause. Here are five books to help your child know what to expect from their next doctor visit.
Froggy has to go to the doctor and doesn’t know what to expect. Will he get a shot? What if he forgets something? Will he get a lollipop? This fun read will entertain Froggy fans everywhere and might convince some kids that doctors aren’t that scary.
Katie is sick and has to go to the doctor. Katie’s mom and her doctor explain what’s happening and what will make her feel better. The simple illustrations and phrasing make this book a great choice for preparing for a doctor’s visit.
Splat the Cat is scheduled to go to the doctor. At first he’s excited, but then his friends start telling him all the scary things that could happen. Fortunately, his mom and doctor help him see that visiting the doctor doesn’t have to be scary! If your child is a worrier, then they can relate to Splat the Cat.
It’s important to take care of our teeth as well as our bodies. That’s why Peppa and George visit the dentist. Peppa makes sure George is ready to meet the dentist, but George is still a little nervous. Luckily, Dr. Elephant knows what to do to help George feel better.
Animals can get sick too and it’s important to take them to the vet. Good thing Dr. Potts can cure animals with any sickness! Does your cat have purple stripes? Maybe your parakeet has yellow spots? Never fear, Dr. Potts can help. This book is unique because it not only teaches about visiting the vet, but it teaches colors and patterns.
Let’s talk Liane Moriarty, or as I like to call her, my not-remotely-guilty pleasure. You might think you haven’t heard of this delightful, Australian author, but you’ve probably heard of her most popular novel, BIG LITTLE LIES. After reading one of her books as part of a summer reading challenge a few years ago (in case you’re wondering, the book was TRULY MADLY GUILTY, and the challenge was to read a book with a character that has your same name), I’ve been maybe just a little obsessed and I’ve read everything she’s written and I’m impatiently awaiting the next one.
Here’s what I love about Liane Moriarty: she is SO GOOD at internal dialogue. Her characters are interesting and complex and oh-so-relatable. She often (but not always) builds up a mystery with this internal dialogue, and often shifts character perspectives so you get different pieces from different characters. She is especially good at writing female characters. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly the reason you’ve stayed up until 3:00 am reading her books AGAIN, but her books are addicting and consistently make me take much longer lunches than I normally would.
So, with no further ado, I’ll get right to ranking these books from worst (though I’ve enjoyed them all!) to best. I dare you to argue.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BARBEQUE?!?! The answer to that question is less interesting than the exploration of these characters and the various things that motivate them.
The premise is pretty simple: three couples, three kids, one ill-fated barbeque that throws their lives to shambles. The book ping pongs back and forth from present day to that day at the barbeque, with characters saying ominous things like, “We never should have gone to the barbeque,” or “What if we hadn’t gone to the barbeque?” I dare you not to flip ahead to figure out what they’re talking about.
TRULY MADLY GUILTY is a good exploration of characters and the ways that their relationships are complicated. This was the first Moriarty novel I read, and obviously it was compelling enough to drive me into a slight obsession, but now that I’ve read everything else she’s written I find this one the least enjoyable.
Many Moriarty fans actually rank this one as their least favorite, but they’re wrong (though not by much).
Ellen is a hypnotherapist with a history of terrible relationships and is happy to finally find herself in one she thinks will last. The only complication? He has a stalker of an ex-girlfriend, and she’s constantly interfering in his life. Ellen finds this fact kind of interesting, and is intrigued to meet the woman.
Except she already has, she just doesn’t know it. DUN DUN DUN!
This is one of Moriarty’s happier books—in the end, there are no dark twists, no long-held secrets, nobody dead or maimed (though at points in the story you start to feel like all of these things are a real possibility). It wraps up nicely--too nicely? Probably. But it’s a nice fluffy book, and I read it in about four days so obviously the story still drew me in. Plus, I want to live in Ellen’s beach house.
Three Wishes This was Moriarty’s debut, which is kind of hard for me to believe. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s got all the hallmarks of her career just in little seedling form. THREE WISHES follows the lives of a set of triplets in their thirties; the book opens with the pregnant one getting stabbed (comically…I promise there is a comical way to be stabbed…), and then fills in the backstory to see how we got there.
There are family secrets; there is LOTS of family drama. There are some coincidences that occasionally feel like a stretch but work in service of the story. Each triplet has her own unique voice and story arc, and I’d say that the ending is just about as happy as it could be for these characters.
THE LAST ANNIVERSARY shares so many things with Moriarty’s other novels: great interior dialogue, an unsolved mystery, relatable female characters. Funny, funny, funny, but also heart-wrenching.
The premise of this one is a little bonkers; a year after ending her “perfect on the outside” relationship with Thomas, Sophie unexpectedly inherits his late aunt’s house on Scribbly Gum Island, home of the infamous Munro baby mystery. Shockingly, she accepts the house and decides to move there. Even more shockingly, most of Thomas’s family are inexplicably cool with her giant house being left to someone outside the family. When Sophie moves in, mysteries develop and unravel. Some I definitely saw coming, but there’s one twist I did NOT anticipate and it made me audibly gasp.
This one hosts a cast of quirky characters, but also starts to tackle deep issues (wasn’t really expecting a novel that explored postpartum depression in any kind of thoughtful way, but this one manages it!).