In the opening lines of Truly Madly Guilty, we learn about a significant event that will change the lives of three couples and everything they thought they knew about themselves.

A barbecue. What could be so important about a get-together like this one?

More than this one event, however, is the significance of the history between two of the characters, Erika and Clementine. How they became friends and their complex journey will reveal much about what ultimately happens, and will shape how everything unfolds.

They started as school friends, but we soon realize that the friendship was lopsided. Clementine had been pressured into inviting Erika to events by her social worker mom, Pam, and as a result, Clementine’s resentment had the power to undermine them in the end. What motivated Pam to reach out to Erika? What horrible secret about Erika’s home and family life is driving the social worker’s actions?

The tale, set in Australia, moves back and forth through time, revealing life after the barbecue…and life on the day of the barbecue. Memories are skewed by alcohol and the resulting intoxication, so the story also helps us see what actually happened, but only a few bits at a time.

I liked how the author showed what the characters were feeling along the way, and also how she filled in details of their personalities and made them seem like real people, flawed and struggling. The chapters had headings that guided us through the journey, and in the end, I felt satisfied that I finally knew how the events of that day had played out.

However, as much as I enjoyed this book, as I’ve loved all the author’s work, the big reveal felt anti-climactic, since learning it all via bits and pieces left us guessing and wondering, but also a little frustrated; and then, when we saw the final pieces of the puzzle come together, there was a feeling of “is that all there is?” But…what I loved more than waiting to see how the final revelations would fill in the gaps was watching the characters struggle with wondering and worrying about their own culpability for that day. How that one day became a defining moment for each of them, leading to better choices in the future. 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped