Once again, I had an extremely busy weekend and was absent from both blogging and reading. I traveled to Kansas City for Planet Comic-Con with my sister, and it was so much fun! We stayed for three days and saw wonderful celebrity panels from a lot of our favorite shows, like Misha Collins and other cast members from Supernatural, Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things, William Zabka from Cobra Kai, and even Ariel and Pocahontas, Jodi Benson and Irene Bedard. We saw so many great cosplays both on the floor and at the contest on Saturday night. And the people in charge of the Con did a great job keeping people safe. Attendees were so gracious and respectful about masking and distancing to ensure we could all enjoy ourselves without worry. It was so nice to be able to get out and about again.
For one of my all-time favorite highlights with a celebrity guest, see this video. It was so cool to be there for this moment:
That was fun, wasn’t it? Now back to business! I’m back today with a review of one of the two books I finished before leaving town. What could I possibly say about Liane Moriarty? Honestly, she’s one of the few authors I believe hasn’t written a bad book. Some I liked more than others, but I didn’t dislike any of them. I was really excited for this book, but for some reason I just never really got around to it and then it sort of slipped off my radar. Now that I’ve finished it, I’ve completed all of the Moriarty library that’s already available to read!
Nine people, all seeking some sort of enlightenment, converge on the health resort called Tranquillum House for a 10 day rejuvenating getaway. There’s the aging romance novelist no longer in the prime of life or career, a retired footballer who no longer has the athletic physique, the single mum who was replaced by her husband with a newer model, the attorney addicted to health clubs who is avoiding difficult conversations with his spouse, the rich married couple with a gulf between them, and the family of three still reeling from devastating loss. They come looking to change their lives, but they never considered just what they could be walking into when they crossed the threshold at Tranquillum house.
I notice a lot of other reviewers of Moriarty’s books, even those who are fans of her work, weren’t particularly enthused about this one. I looked on it much more kindly than most, I believe. But I feel like I understand what she was trying to do with this story. Some people think this book wasn’t about anything and had no real story. I disagree. Was it her best book? No, not even close.
First and foremost, Liane Moriarty has a particular gift that is difficult to match among other writers in her genre. She completely and truly understands her characters. She knows who they are, deep down within their souls, and she knows exactly how to bring them to readers in a way that facilitates our complete understanding of those characters. By the end of her novels, we feel as close to them as to members of our own family. Even in a book with a fairly sizable cast of characters, we’re never at risk of getting them mixed up because each is unique and special in their own super defined way. They are so flawlessly imperfect they feel like real flesh and blood humans versus the creative imaginings of a brilliant human.
My favorite of all these characters is Frances, the romance novelist who is reeling from heartbreak and humiliation in both her personal and professional lives. Though naive, Frances is infinitely lovable and funny. She’s the kind of character who manages to charm you despite all her flaws. Frankly, all of the characters in this book one could say that about. Even Masha, who is at times positively detestable, is characterized by such an intense vulnerability that you can’t help but feel for her. And once we learn her backstory, we are much more capable of understanding how she came to be the complicated tragic figure she is. She’s also proof that there’s so much more to the concept of “wellness” than we humans believe. Smoothies, spa treatments, and micro-dosing with weird shit can only lead to so much enlightenment if we haven’t really faced our inner demons.
True enlightenment comes from human connection built upon making ourselves vulnerable and accessible to one another, as well as an understanding that we all share something infinitely more powerful than any external meditative force. In today’s world of social media and much more shallow and tenuous relationships, we all tend to put on a front. We show the world what we think the world wants to see versus what we really have to offer. In doing so, we hide the greatest parts of ourselves. That’s really such a shame, because we’re all so truly beautiful without all the artifice.
Moriarty’s books, this one being no exception, also has something else I like. They are always very humorous. I find myself smiling and laughing a lot throughout the whole thing. At the same time, she doesn’t shy away from really difficult topics. Her books are real life. They are laughter and tears mixed about in a big vat of reality. No one goes untouched by difficulties of some sort. We are all the sum of a variety of different experiences, the bad and the good. I love that, and it makes her books infinitely more powerful.
There’s a tiny bit of mystery to this book. Occasionally there are some shocking moments that keep readers in suspense. But, overall, it’s a very human story about people who are all searching for the sense of place that they have lost over the years and finding it with each other. I think other readers wanted the intense read of a Liane Moriarty thriller. This isn’t really that type of book, which disappointed some of her ardent fans. I, however, have always felt Moriarty’s books are much more human-centered. Beneath the excitement and intrigue, there’s human fallibility. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to Moriarty’s next release, Apples Never Fall, coming in September! 4 Stars from me!
Published November 6, 2018 by Flatiron Books. ISBN 1250069823. 453 pages.
I just started watching the show the other day and it made me want to read the book really badly. I’m trying to decide if it makes more sense to continue watching and then read after or hold off on continuing the show and read the book first.
Hmmm that’s an excellent question. I plan on starting the show sometime this week. From the trailers it looks like maybe they have infused the show with more suspense than is in the book but otherwise it looks fairly similar. I’m looking forward to giving the series a go! Hope you enjoy them both whatever you choose!
Great review! I’m usually a fan of Liane Moriarty’s books, but didn’t love this one. Still, I agree that she is superb when it comes to really developing her characters.
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