Apples Never Fall

By Liane Moriarty

Going OFF-GRID for a little while! I’m dancing daffodils 21 Dog Champagne to end Czechoslovakia! Spangle Moot! Love, Mum.’ Heart emoji. Butterfly emoji. Flower emoji. Smiley face emoji. ‘Off-grid’ was in capitals.” The beauty therapist’s mother used a lot of emojis in her texts too. Mothers loved emojis. She wondered what all that “dancing daffodils” stuff could possibly mean.

Moriarty once again has written an engrossing exploration of a dramatic family dynamic. I guess every family has its dark undercurrents, resentments, secrets, and challenges, but this is a family whose potential for both everyday and cataclysmic blow-ups is turned up more than a notch. First of all, although affluent and successful, they are a family of former athletes that never quite attained their dreams. The father, Stan, is a successful local tennis coach who had the potential for worldwide fame and greatness. The mother, Joy, gave up her own tennis career to raise 4 challenging kids and build the family business. As energetic and loving as she is she has had her plate more than full throughout her whole life. Like so many wives and mothers of her time, she feels cheated and unappreciated.

When the children were little they always called it “Daddy’s office” even though Joy was the one who handled all the business of the business. Yet they all had to maintain the pretense that because Stan was the man, whatever he was doing was automatically more important and deserved priority over any contribution from the little lady. Well, fuck you, Stan.

And then there’s the 4 kids: Amy, the oldest, who has all kinds of mental health disorders. Pick one. Logan, rather ordinary and scruffy, just broke up with his universally adored girlfriend, Indira, and is confused and miserable. Troy, a wealthy trader, and reformed drug dealer is now divorced from his lovely wife whom he cheated on. And Brooke, outwardly stable, has suffered from debilitating migraines since childhood. She too is divorced and trying, so far unsuccessfully, to start her own physical therapy practice.

Yes, Amy had her mental health challenges, but she was as tough as nails at her core; Logan pretended not to care about anything but cared about everything; Troy acted so superior because he felt so inferior; and Brooke liked to present herself as the most grown-up of them all, but sometimes Joy caught the fleeting expression of a frightened child crossing her face.

Things come to a head when a stranger knocks on Stan and Joy’s door seeking shelter and doesn’t leave. She worms her way into their affections and they become almost dependent upon her. Their kids are bewildered, worried, and start investigating. What’s her scam? When her lies and motives are exposed, she leaves, leaving seeds of destruction behind her. Some months later Joy disappears without a trace except for a perplexing text message to her children. Unbelievably, It starts to look to the police, his children, and the reader that her loving but complex husband of 50 years might have murdered her.

The build-up is slow but fascinating as we get to know each member of the family. I alternatively sympathized then despised then liked them again all at many points in the novel. That is a measure of Liane Moriarty’s talent and skill in constructing her characters. And we are mystified by Savannah. Who is she really and what is she up to? Things really start to pop shortly after the halfway point and the revelations come fast and furious.

In my experience, Lianne Moriarty really knows how to end a book. All is revealed and tied up in a very satisfying conclusion with happy endings, beginnings, and hope for all of the Delaney family.

Nico said there were good floorboards waiting beneath the vile carpet in the house they’d just bought. Amazing to think something beautiful could lie beneath the ugliness and all you had to do was peel it away. 

Then we get a shock of a second bonus ending which I read with simultaneous horror and guilty amusement.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

October 5, 2021

The Last Anniversary

By Liane Moriarty

‘Oh, Sophie.’ Gretel sits upright and agitatedly pats her shoulder. ‘Sweetheart! Of course there’s time! We just have to fix this! I didn’t realise it meant so much to you, darling. I’m so stupid! I thought you were happy being a career girl. Oh, dear, how can we fix this?’ She looks around her frantically, as if a spare baby is likely to go floating by any second and she can quickly scoop it up and hand it over to Sophie.

**Sort of generally spoilery as far as whether it has a “happy” ending, though no specifics.**
I enjoyed this book and had no major problems with it as I did with two of her other books I gave 3 stars to. I do suggest that readers start making a family tree early on. Until I did so, I kept getting confused about who was who and how they were related to each other. Just a tip.

I would recommend this early work to Liane Moriarty fans but not if you must have tension, nail-biting suspense, or mind-boggling twists and reveals. Not a lot of darkness in this one. Although her portrait of Claire who was damaged but not ruined by her childhood and is in the grips of Post-Natal Depression was heartbreaking. It is pretty slow-moving. It has gentle humor, deft characterizations (two people, in particular, are not as black as they are painted at first.) The Monroe baby mystery is not so mysterious, but there is a decent surprise at the very end. I only wish Rose had not washed her floor after her masterpiece. All of the characters’ fates end hopefully and satisfactorily, though not mapped out and tied with a big bow.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

February 24, 2019

The Hypnotist’s Love Story

by Liane Moriarty

I didn’t have enough other people in my life to cover the loss of this many people at once. I didn’t have any spare aunties or cousins or grandparents. I didn’t have backup. I didn’t have insurance to cover a loss like this.

I’ve read 4 of Liane Moriarty’s novels. This is the 3rd best I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. Such an excellent writer. I will give this one 3.75 stars. In reading the reviews, the two main complaints seem to be that 1) Nothing Happens. And 2) No big twists like in her other novels. 

**Spoiler**

I Think the big twist was that there was no twist. She really set the reader up for the possibility that Patrick and Ellen were not to be. She gave Patrick some very unlikable and unadmirable qualities and actions. I felt sure that worse was to come. Ellen was too nice, too reasonable, too in control. Also she was very powerful, with her ability to influence people with her use of hypnosis. I was sure she was headed for a big fall. And at some points, I would have welcomed that. But no. After her very career and livelihood and reputation was threatened by the irate husband of a client, It was quickly resolved by another unlikely and underestimated patient.

A memory resurfaced now of Mary-Kate saying she worked in the “legal profession.” Ellen had just assumed she was a legal secretary. Would she have been more patient and respectful with Mary-Kate if she’d known she was dealing with a barrister? Shamefully, the answer was yes.

We learn that Ellen was not the paragon she was at first painted, and that made her more intriguing and sympathetic. Yes, Ellen learns a few things. As does Patrick.

“I took Saskia’s lucky marble with me when I saw my first ever Scott Surveys client,” said Patrick. “I held it while I waited in reception.” He’d never before referred to a nice memory involving Saskia. It was Ellen’s first glimpse of the other side of their story. “I lost the marble at school,” said Jack. “I looked and looked, and a teacher tried to help me, but we couldn’t find it. I didn’t want to tell Saskia because I knew she’d be sad, and then the next day she was gone. So I thought, Uh-oh, she found out I lost it.” Patrick’s eyes met Ellen’s over the top of Jack’s head. “You thought it was your fault,” said Ellen to Jack.

“I think that’s why I kept putting off taking out the restraining order,” said Patrick. “Because, deep down, I knew I’d treated her badly, even though I didn’t admit it, even to myself.

A potentially devastating meeting with her sperm-donor father ends with a whimper rather than a bang. But that is a good thing!

“Olé!” said Ellen’s father. He lifted his hands above his head and pretended to click imaginary castanets. It was a profoundly dorky dad-like move that would have caused any self-respecting teenage son or daughter to die with shame. “Olé,” said Ellen agreeably. She settled back in her chair to watch the dancing, and as she did she felt one last, lingering doubt about Patrick’s love—a doubt she didn’t know she’d had—quietly drift away. So this was what it was like to have a father.

And our antagonist, Saskia. She finally does hit her rock-bottom by falling down the stairs after Patrick and Ellen wake up in the night to find her staring down at them. She almost takes out Jack, the young son of Patrick, who she mothered for years and still loves. (“Nothing Happens?!”). But no she didn’t set Ellen’s beloved home on fire to kill them all. It was just a sand storm. And Saskia does come out the other side, well on the road to mental health in a particularly touching and unexpected way.
Even Ellen’s briefly met clients each have their own happy endings as well!
So I guess if you’re looking for tragedy, death, destruction, radical reversal of fortunes and personalities, and white-knuckle action, you might be disappointed in The Hypnotist’s Love Story. **end spoiler**

As for me, I was intrigued and drawn in by how all the threads were going to play out. How the characters would learn and grow (or not.) One of the themes of this novel is the importance of having back up. I am reminded of one of the last lines of one of my very favorite movies: About a Boy:

I used to think two wasn’t enough. Now there were loads of people… I don’t know what Will was so upset about. All I meant was I don’t think couples are the future. You need more than that. You need backup. The way I saw it, Will and I both had backup now. It’s like that thing he told me Jon Bon Jovi said: “No man is an island.”

This is her lowest rated novel other than the disappointing Truly Madly Guilty. Since I liked it so much, I am sure looking forward to continuing with the rest of her backlist.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 5, 2018

Nine Perfect Strangers

by Liane Moriarty

She dared to look up and the stars were a million darting eyes on the lookout for rule-breaking in her story: sexism, ageism, racism, tokenism, ableism, plagiarism, cultural appropriation, fat-shaming, body-shaming, slut-shaming, vegetarian-shaming, real-estate-agent-shaming.

Liane Moriarty’s new book, Nine Perfect Strangers, is somewhat of a departure from her usual dual timeline of slowly revealing a devastating occurrence happening in the present while going back in time with them to show her cast of character’s journeys to that life-altering point in time. Mystery, suspense, and entertaining character studies culminating in a shocking and twisty climax result, along with a very satisfying conclusion.

This book delivers on the characters, and the surprises, but falls short of most of her previous books. The sarcastic irreverent humor is there too, but not in such generous amounts, it seemed to me. The book features “nine perfect strangers”, brought together in extraordinary and stressful circumstances. They all have their sad, challenging, or tragic backstories which are revealed as the book goes on. Only a few of the nine are characters I would typically be interested in or drawn to, but such is Liane’s writing that I became wholly invested in most of them sooner or later and cared about their outcomes. The last chapters in the book, which provide mini-epilogues to all of their lives, really ended the book on a high note. I loved what she did there, but wish we had more of their stories after they left Tranquillum House. They went their separate ways, but most of them stayed connected in one way or another. I would have liked a little more of That.

Some of the developments with Masha, one of the main characters, were over the top. I burst out with an “Oh No She Didn’t!” more than once. But it got a little too crazy for me at one point. She got a little too crazy. There were a few draggy spots, and I did not enjoy the hallucinations the characters experienced.  I pretty much skipped through those parts. They were tedious and unnecessary. I felt unsatisfied by her part of the story. Such a strong character needed a stronger ending.

All in all, almost 4 stars. It kept me engaged, but it lacked the nail-biting suspense and shocks of some of her earlier books. And even though I was interested and invested in all of the characters, at least, most of them, there were none that I just loved.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

January 1, 2019

The Husband’s Secret

By Liane Moriarty

“Why did she give up wine for Lent? Polly was more sensible. She had given up strawberry jam. Cecilia had never seen Polly show more than a passing interest in strawberry jam, although now, of course, she was always catching her standing at the open fridge, staring at it longingly. The power of denial.”

**Major Spoilers**

 At first I was going to give this one 4 stars. The writing, as always with Liane Moriarty, was excellent. The inner dialogues with the 3 main characters slowly revealed their characters and as always, things are not what they seem to be at first. I love how their inner thoughts, as opposed to what their personas appear to be like to the outside world, can be so irreverent and insightful. She is great at dark humor. And I didn’t guess the secret almost until right before the reveal. That sure kept me intrigued. And I continued to be intrigued by how it was all going to play out.

However, I found most of the characters to be way too sad. And they continued to be sad throughout the book. If they weren’t sad, they were hateful. For example, At first, I thought Rachel was a damaged but ultimately sweet woman who will have some kind of healing or a new lease on life. But as it turns out, she was a cold, manipulative, selfish mother and mother-in-law. She is a little redeemed at the end, but not enough for my taste. I wanted more than a hint that she was not going to continue to make her son’s and his lovely wife’s lives miserable. I even found Tess’s 6-year-old son Liam very grating on the nerves. And John-Paul. I just find it inconceivable that a nice 17-year-old boy would ever try to strangle his girlfriend and then grow up to be a nice good man. He regretted his “mistake,” as it is referred to. Buddy, burning the casserole is a mistake. Strangling your girlfriend to her death is. not. a. mistake. And no, it doesn’t matter that she would have died that night anyway, because of her health issue. It is even hinted that it was good thing Janie, his victim, had a disease that caused her to die before John-Paul came to his senses. Because otherwise she would have gone to the police and he would have been arrested for assault! And then Mr. Perfect’s life would have been ruined! What? This is just sloppy and thoughtless writing. At one point, I wondered if John-Paul was going to go after Cecilia for reading the letter. That would have made more sense.

There were too many loose ends and unresolved plot lines. How and why did Cecilia become the neurotically organized homemaker, school Mom, neighbor, and Tupperware mogul that she was? What about her sinister mother-in-Law? What about Tess’s relationship with her Dad? Rachel and Cecilia’s fates were so cleverly, ironically, and thoughtfully intertwined. Tess’s thread, though interesting, was really not related to the other two protagonists at all. Their stories needed some more connectors to Tess. The Blurb for the book states: “Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.” Uh, no they don’t. Rachel does, but not Tess.

And that info dump of an epilogue! Don’t get me started. I found it random, too pat, and gratuitous. It should have been way longer, more detailed and completely integrated with everyone included or not exist at all. How did Polly fair? The other two sisters? What about Lucy? What about Tess and Felicia’s relationship and their influence on each other? What happened with Lauren and Rob? Hell, what about one of the few completely likable characters in the book, Trudy the Principal, for that matter?

The Husband’s Secret was a fascinating page-turner. But it had too many flaws. It is one of her highest-rated books, but I liked 2 of her lower-rated books much better. For this reason, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on The Last Anniversary.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 15, 2018

Three Wishes

By Liane Moriarty

“When they were in second class, Sister Joyce Mary chalked a picture of the three-leafed shamrock on the blackboard to illustrate how “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were three persons but one God.” Gemma’s hand shot into the air. “Like triplets! Like us!” The nun winced. “I’m afraid the Kettle girls are not like the Holy Trinity!” “Yes, but I think we are, Sister,” said Gemma kindly.”

Three Wishes is another winner by the Australian author. It starts out with a big public blow-up in a restaurant among triplets during their 34th birthday celebration. It is recounted by 3 objective observers (a waitress, and 2 other diners,) of the women’s behavior from entering the restaurant to the final scenes where one is taken away in an ambulance and followed by her sisters. How did this happen? What started it? Moriarty guides us through the year leading up to the climactic event. In her typical non-linear story-telling fashion, we get flashbacks back to even before they were born, their toddlerhood, childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood, their relationships, marriages, their children, and other close family members. Along the way, we are treated to observations of strangers who witnessed random moments in their lives and how those moments affected them.

The triplets themselves consist of 2 identical twins, and a third fraternal sister. They are intelligent, beautiful, complex, and 3 very different women. Lyn is a super-organized successful entrepreneur and mother with a good marriage who is very mature, always right, and always has her life in order and together. Except she starts having panic attacks. Gemma, the fraternal triplet is a sweet, ditsy, generous, free-spirit who does not have a “career.” She house-sits for a living and drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend. Except she has a dark debilitating secret: A past trauma that she has to heal from in order for her to have a healthy relationship and a productive life. Interestingly, we learn well into the book, that she is brilliant in math and a financial whiz. Finally, there is Cat, the other identical twin. Despite her charm, humor, passion, and talents, Cat is not really a good person. Yet, she loves her sisters, and her sisters love her. She also is a successful businesswoman in a happy marriage. Until her husband makes a confession that throws her perfect world into chaos. Passion becomes rage and all her worst traits are triggered. Through flashbacks, we see that she can be mean, self-centered, and insensitive. Liane is such a great writer that she still manages to make Cat likable and someone we still root for. Does she have a good heart underneath it all? Can she move on from her broken marriage? Or can this marriage be saved?

The story takes us past the disastrous 34th birthday party and our questions about all three women are satisfied, or well on their way to be. There is no miracle resolution to all of their foibles and problems, but we are given closure and hope. In a delightful manner, Liane Moriarty re-incorporates two of the three diners that tell about the party in the prologue into the final pages of the book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

August 3, 2018

Truly, Madly, Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

“Of course, a minute was enough. Never take your eyes off them. Never look away. It happens so fast. It happens without a sound. All those stories in the news. All those parents. All those mistakes she’d read about. … Children with stupid, foolish, neglectful parents. Children who died while surrounded by so-called responsible adults. And each time she would pretend to be non-judgmental, but really, deep down she was thinking: Not me. That could never really happen to me.”

I enjoyed this book, although it was a distant 3rd behind What Alice Forgot and, my favorite, Big Little Lies. The plot and concept were good and kept me reading almost non-stop. The main characters and the secondary characters were interesting and well-developed. However, unlike the other Moriarty books I have read, it really lacked even one character that I loved and really cared about. One character was truly maddening, and another was really sad, and had a sad ending. Her trademark darkish humor was there, but in smaller doses. Since Moriarty chose to attend in detail to the stories and characters of 10 people, not even including the little children, it diluted the impact of the book as a whole. Great title though!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 3, 2016

What Alice Forgot

by Liane Moriarty

And then there was that other man—that physiotherapist from Melbourne—who had sent her the card with the mention of “happier times.” Who was he? Was she already on to her second relationship after breaking up with Nick? Had she turned into a hussy? A point-making hussy who went to the gym and upset her beloved sister and hosted “Kindergarten Cocktail Parties”? She hated the person she’d become. The only good part was the clothes.

I loved this almost as much as Big Little Lies. I’ve never read an amnesia story I didn’t like. The characters were fascinating and well developed. I cared about them. Unlike some, I found the young Alice very lovable and was very interested in learning what changed her from the shy sweet kind of ditzy woman very in love and dependent upon her quite lovable husband to the brittle, implacable, super-competent supermom who seemed to hate and be hated by a hostile husband. What could have caused such a transformation? And who the heck is Gina? My theories ran amuck throughout the book until all was revealed. I am not sure the transformation was entirely supported by what happened in her life, but I bought it enough for it not to be a major sticking point. The last 15 to 20% of the book is a real roller-coaster ride…but thanks to a very satisfying epilogue, the crazy train made it to the station safely.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

July 5, 2016

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

“She’d never really believed in it before. Then, as she hit her late thirties, her body said, OK, you don’t believe in PMS? I’ll show you PMS. Get a load of this, bitch. Now, for one day every month, she had to fake everything: her basic humanity, her love for her children, her love for Ed. She’d once been appalled to hear of women claiming PMS as a defense for murder. Now she understood. She could happily murder someone today! In fact, she felt like there should be some sort of recognition for her remarkable strength of character that she didn’t.”

Marvelous, simply marvelous. Dark themes dealt with wittily and very satisfyingly. I wanted to jump for joy for the way some of the plot lines worked out at the end. When a book can make you care that much about the characters it gets 5 stars from me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

April 2, 2015