Audiobook: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee

Truly Madly Guilty
Liane Moriarty

read by Caroline Lee


Everything changes for three couples and their families the day a simple backyard barbecue goes wrong. And the wrong thing that happens hits them hard with feelings of guilt and regret. What happened and what is the backstory? That’s the basis of Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, a modern story set in suburban Sydney, Australia.

Vid and Tiffany are the outgoing neighbors who want to enjoy themselves. Erika and Oliver conduct themselves carefully and deliberately. Sam and Clementine are deep into balancing life with careers and two little girls. The common link is the complicated friendship between Erika and Clementine, built on decades of resentment and shame.

The story begins sometime after the barbecue and hints at how the group is coping. Moriarty slowly reveals, through alternating chapters of before and after, just what happened at the barbecue and mixes in the many relationship difficulties between the married couples. Difficulties like love and marriage and sex and careers, becoming adults and raising children. Additional themes include money and class, being charitable and accepting help, family obligations and the big one, guilt.

Everything that could be ignored before the barbecue now demands their acknowledgement and work. Moriarty’s characters are good people under it all and the question is if and how they will pull themselves up. Despite the events, the story ends on a hopeful note, with some realistic loose ends. Special praise goes to the narrator, Caroline Lee, whose terrific character sense and range add a bonus dimension to the story. At seventeen hours, it’s a long but entertaining listen. I recommend Truly Madly Guilty to listeners (and readers) who like stories about relationships and modern problems.

Note: This is my first audiobook experience. I was not sure how I would feel about listening to a book because I wondered if I would be able to keep the characters and plot straight. No problems! I listened to half of it in my car last Friday during a long ride in a crazy wind storm and finished up yesterday as I took a walk and worked around my house. I still prefer reading, but think I will enjoy mixing it up a bit with an audiobook.

How do you feel about audiobooks? What do you do while you listen?

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If you like stories about marriage and family, check out:
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

Things We Set on Fire
Things We Set on Fire

Deborah Reed


Is there such a thing as a safe family secret, one that stays hidden and does no harm? Or does the unconscious knowledge of it permeate and ruin a family? On a fall day in the Florida woods, Vivien Fenton makes a decision that will forever change her family. But what she does to save her young daughters, Elin and Kate, does something far worse. An action that can’t be taken back becomes the dark and angry secret no one can confront, even as it works itself to the surface of their lives.

Things We Set on Fire is a great story about a mother who believes she is doing the right thing, but can’t see its impact until close to twenty years later. By then, Elin and Kate have grown and left their mother, motivated by a need to flee. But a call in the night pulls Vivvie back into their lives. Anger and resentment simmer on the side as the women try to make sense of new events that will change them yet again.

Although Reed’s story is about secrets, it is also about love, marriage, sibling survival and the potential for forgiveness. In telling, Reed creates a momentum by introducing events and characters in interesting small pieces, then cycling back to fill in the details. Written in an easy style, it’s the kind of book you can read quickly, but if you like understanding characters, you will miss important details if you do.

In the end, Reed’s characters understand that they must move in their own directions, creating loose but hopeful family ties. I recommend Things We Set on Fire to anyone who enjoys reading about family relationships and how they change over time.

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