To tell you the truth, I bought this book on the strength of the Moriarty name alone. There have just been so many good things floating about online about the Moriarty sisters that I couldn’t resist putting this in my cart. And since Holly and Chachic both had this book in their TBRs, we decided to do another readalong!
The Premise: At the thirty-third birthday of Australian triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma, they have a huge fight at a restaurant. A fight so big that it has the rest of the restaurant reporting on it to their friends the next day. It all started, say the Kettle sisters, when Lyn was having spaghetti with her husband Dan. That was the day, they say that Dan admitted that he had a one night stand. And thus begins the narrative from spaghetti to the big fight, covering the individual and combined lives of the three sisters.
My Thoughts: Well it doesn’t look like we are having the best luck in our readalong choices. So far the books we choose end up being much less cheerful that we expected them to be! Based on the cover (I know, I know, I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover), with it’s cupcake and color scheme of pink and teal, I was expecting something lighthearted. The blurbs that said things like “joyful, bighearted valentine to sisters” (Patricia Gaffney), and “Quirky and lovable” (Publishers Weekly), and “family comedy” (back blurb) made me expect more humor than there actually was. Maybe I don’t have the right sense of humor.
The thing is, I wasn’t expecting Dan’s infidelity, and it is the storyline that anchors the whole book. The story really begins with Dan confessing to his wife Cat (page 13 in my edition), that he had been unfaithful. The narrative does not pull it’s punches, giving us every horrible detail of the confession and Cat’s reaction. Funny? Not so much. Nor is the story of close sisters dealing with the wake of the affair’s aftermath. Cat is going through too much to be seen in a flattering light. She is prickly throughout Three Wishes, and as a reader I felt like my emotions were closely linked with whatever she was going through. Even though it felt like all the sisters have about the same amount of face time in the story, her sisters stories were like satellites to Cat’s black hole.
Lyn, who is identical to Cat, is the list-making, ambitious, by-the-book triplet. On the surface, she has a life many people would want — a successful business, nice house, a smart and loving husband, and two daughters (one her own, one she raised as her own), but Lyn’s need for keeping everything under control (including a chart to keep track of her friendships), is taking its toll. She can’t control her daughters’ moods or what her sister is going through. Before long she’s having a panic attack in a parking lot with her toddler in the back seat. Gemma, the triplet from a different egg, is the sensitive but flaky bohemian sister who wants everyone to be happy. She seems the sweetest of the bunch, but the almost defiant way she refuses to be tied down to a man, home, or career has a reason — one she has never told her sisters and has never fully worked through.
With a family going through all that the Kettles go through, you’d think my emotions would be ones of soft sympathy, but most of the book had me angry and depressed. I can’t decide whether I was so caught up in Cat’s story I couldn’t separate my emotions from hers, or the story was depressing me and I was getting mad at it for doing so. It may be a bit of both. The thing is, there was something about each of the sisters that just turned me off. I didn’t love Cat’s anger. It made her character feel hard and closed off even though I think she has reason to be. I didn’t love that she and Lyn were always to take their emotions out on Gemma. Gemma on the other hand, would usually just let her sister’s behavior slide and was often indecisive. There were a lot of little things like that that gnawed at me. These sisters had a lot of issues. The narrative underlines this by both what they’re going through now, and by flashbacks to not-so-happy memories. And I can’t help comparing my relationship with my sister to these sisters, and I feel like this book is missing some vital element in my believing in their sisterly bond. Something is missing from their relationships I can’t put my finger on.
And then there’s the plot. After Cat finds out about the infidelity, a couple of events happen that just twist the knife further. After an incredibly low point in the story, perhaps midway through the book, I threw my hands up and predicted where the plot was going to go. I based my guess on the worst thing that could happen to Cat – the thing that would make her suffer further. At that point I was just feeling emotionally manipulated. My predictions turned out to be correct, but not to the degree I feared. What saved this book was after the first two-thirds of general misery, that the last third was a slow climb out of it. It was like the dawn after a storm. I felt much calmer once I got to the end, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel more than just “it was OK” about the book. The writing is excellent, but for me and my aversion to angsty drama, this is just the wrong book to read.
Overall: There are a lot of people who saw humor in this one, but I just didn’t get it. If a book chronicles the dissolution of a marriage because of infidelity (and more).. I ain’t laughing. I think a big part of that was that I just found the characters difficult to like or connect to. This just wasn’t to my personal taste.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
See Michelle Read – “utter winner”
I have this author on my list of possibilities for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I haven;t actually read her before so I am not 100% sure, especially because I don’t really want to read down books!
Both Chachic and Holly said that WHAT ALICE FORGOT was much better and they hoped I’d read it. So I think I’ll give her another chance. The writing was very good, I just didn’t find any humor in the face of all the angst. If you look at goodreads and Amazon, there are so many 4 & 5 stars. I feel like I’m missing something! *shrug*. Oh well, wasn’t for me.
*nods head* What you said. 🙂 In the end I had this disconnect with each of the sisters. Gemma was the easiest triplet to like initially but then her flakiness must have turned me off. That and her inability to confide her deep dark secret to her sisters.
“Cat is going through too much to be seen in a flattering light.”=> Yes, I agree, but it was never enough for me to judge her or dislike her. I just didn’t have enough to go on. I think the infidelity was enough. We didn’t need the even worse revelations that came later.
There was some humor at the very, very beginning, but other than that, I didn’t find much to laugh about, which was pretty disappointing. Maybe the depressing effects of the affair could’ve been tempered by more humor and the novel on the whole would’ve been more successful.
P.S. Don’t let this deter you from reading What Alice Forgot. It’s such a different book. Very thought-provoking, not such a downer (though there is marital issues), and it’s easy to connect with Alice.
Hehe, you wrote a nice long comment. Yes, I thought Gemma was the nice one, but then I wanted her to stand up for herself and be decisive. I guess that’s the point? That her personality made it easy for her sisters to be short with her and not notice how they are being? And this reflects her relationship with her fiance? But then it didn’t make sense for her to be the nice one when she didn’t treat men so nice (and she got some kind of pleasure out of breaking up with them over something that was about her fiance and not them – that was sucky).
Agree about not needing the worse revelations. The bad one nearly made it a wallbanger. I refrained. I also agree about the humor.
I won’t. 🙂
“With a family going through all that the Kettles go through, you’d think my emotions would be ones of soft sympathy, but most of the book had me angry and depressed.” -> You already know that I felt the same way when I read this book. It came to a point where I just wanted to finish reading it so I can move on to a new book. And you’re not alone in thinking that the pretty cupcake cover has something lighthearted in store for us. I was surprised at how misleading the cover design was.
I agree with what you said about not really believing the bond between the sisters. I also felt like there was something missing in their relationship. Now, I don’t have a sister so I can’t compare it to a personal relationship but I do have girlfriends and I don’t think I’ll ever treat my friends as badly as the Kettle sisters treated each other.
LOL like Holly said, I hope this doesn’t keep you from reading What Alice Forgot, that’s one of my favorite books last year. It was the reason why I decided to read Liane Moriarty’s other books *keeps fingers crossed that I’d have better luck with The Last Anniversary*
We should pick a better book for our next readalong! 😛 We haven’t been lucky so far. Would you happen to have Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin? Both Holly and I got that recently and were thinking of doing a readalong for that.
Well the good thing about this book is that it makes for a good discussion! You guys are leaving nice long comments. Love it. 🙂
There was something about the not giving each other information when they seemed to talk or call each other EVERY DAY that made me feel a bit batty. That was the thing. If they talked maybe once every couple of weeks, that would be one thing, but they had .. what was it, a weekly lunch, right? A bit strange. Let’s say I put that aside, but still there were other things, like.. the competitiveness was really strange. It didn’t feel balanced enough by pride in each other. Their pride seemed to be about how the other sisters looked together when they were out, not about their accomplishments. And they’re 34 and still they haven’t learned how to be together without some silly drama. They can’t let each other just BE. There was no balancing force to smooth out all their crazy.
Alright. I hope to read WHAT ALICE FORGOT and like it.
I have access to WHISKEY ROAD! I just looked, and it is available at my local library. I have been interested in it because I recall Angie’s review. You guys wanna try? I am still finishing CODE NAME VERITY right now though.
I know, we even had that Goodreads thread where we talked about what we thought of the book as a whole (mostly about the things that we didn’t like).
Yeah, they really had a weird relationship. It seemed like the closeness was just superficial, you know? Like how things are with backbiting friends. It didn’t feel like they were really THERE for each other, when they most needed the support of their siblings. I really just couldn’t connect with the other characters and I’ll probably give it 2 stars on Goodreads like you did if I ever get around to posting my review. 😛
*keeps fingers crossed that Whiskey Road will be better*
Yeah, I know that with my sister and my brother, my past experience with them and knowing their personalities from you know, GROWING UP WITH THEM, I can tell if something is wrong or if they’re not telling me something. I may not bug them about it but I am not oblivious.
Yeah. I started it last night, but I was pooped. Will update Goodreads tonight. So far so good though.
Thank you for leaving a thorough review and summary. I read Little Big Lies and felt pretty much as you describe yourself with this book. I guess her style isn’t for me. On the up side, plenty of other books out there!