Mayhem in Suburbia

Wedded Bliss. Growing up in the 1960’s I viewed marriage as something easy and gentle, like what I saw on The Donna Reed Show or Father Knows Best.  Although my parents certainly didn’t have that vibe going on. As a young child I kept trying to get them to watch the TV show and learn from it. Silly me.

Fast forward forty years. Marriage is neither easy nor gentle and a great place to find all the tension any author could ever need to keep readers reading. Lianne Moriarty gives her readers these telescopic views into her characters’ lives fleshing out all their quirks and traits. Some of them you instantly relate to, some of them hit you between the eyes shocking you, and some are elusive and you can’t quite pin them down. All of her characters have a solid realism to them, like you’ve met these people before.

Truly, Madly Guilty involves three married couples: Clementine and Sam, Erica and Oliver, and Tiffany and Vid. The story revolves around Clementine and Erica who have been friends since Clementine’s mother insisted she befriend Erica in grammar school. The relationship is lopsided at best, with Clementine grudgingly going along with her mother’s request. Even into adulthood their relationship is marred by that request and never blooms, remaining stagnant.

Moriarty loves her mayhem in suburbia and teases her reader about an incident at a barbecue through the first half of the book. She unwinds the story slowly, but with an eye on character development. By the time the incident reveals itself, the characters are well formed. Will the characters behave the way you think? Or act differently?

Tiffany and Vid are neighbors of Erica and Oliver and host the barbecue. Vid invited his neighbors over and asked them to bring that fun couple they’re friends with. While the fun people Tiffany, Vid, Sam and Clementine are having a great time together, Erica and Oliver feel left out. As the four fun people are enjoying each other, Tiffany looks at the younger couple thinking:

“Tiffany watched Sam and Clementine look at each other, their faces flushed, their pupils dilated. It would be a kindness. A public service. She could see exactly where their sex life was at.  They were tired parents of young kids.  They thought it was all over, and it wasn’t, they were still attracted to each other, they just needed a little electric shock to the system, a little stimulus, maybe some sex toys, some good-quality soft porn. She could be their good-quality soft porn.”

Well, that should have you thinking.

After the incident at the barbecue, Sam and Clementine look deeply at their lives and Erica and Oliver make some important decisions. The chaos that spins out of the barbecue will become live-altering for the two couples.

We really enjoyed this book at our meeting. We all loved Oliver. He’s the best husband out of all of them. We talked about marriage, life-trials, hoarding and other mental illnesses, and about the outcome.  We were all happy for Erica in the end. Book clubs will enjoy the discussions guaranteed to come out of this book.

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