So far, this is my favorite book by the Aussie authoress, Liane Moriarty. (And it’s slotted to be produced into a CBS film starring Blake Lively.)
This review has all the spoilers — you have been warned.
This book unfolds the story of Cecilia Fitzgerald, who discovers a letter one day addressed to her. It is in her husband’s handwriting, and the envelope bears the message “To my wife, Cecilia Fitzgerald, to be opened in the event of my death.”
Although she tries to resist temptation, Cecilia opens up the letter only to discover that it’s a murder confession. Her husband, John-Paul had murdered Janie Crowley, a neighborhood girl, 28 years ago. Her murder was never solved, and the crime has haunted John-Paul all his life.
As a teenager, John-Paul had dated Janie Crowley, and quickly succumbed to adolescent love. Janie, on the other hand, decided she wanted to date another boy, named Connor Whitbey. And so she told John-Paul in person that she wanted to break up with him. In a fit of rage, he strangled her for a few seconds, and by the time he released his hands, she had died. It was an accident he would come to lament for decades.
Janie’s mother, Rachel Crowley, still mourns the loss of her daughter. At the time Cecilia discovers her husband’s letter, Rachel discovers a home video of Janie and Connor. In the video, Janie is rude to Connor, and his feelings seem wounded. Rachel in turn interprets this to be a murder motive on part of Connor.
As Rachel is driving one day, she sees Connor, and in a moment of irrationality, slams her foot on the gas in an effort to kill him.
Instead, she hits John-Paul’s six year old daughter, Polly, who loses an arm as a result of the accident. Polly had been chasing after John-Paul.
The end feels eerily karmic. John-Paul had deprived Cecilia of her daughter, and so now Cecilia has damaged the daughter who John-Paul loves to much.
As book draws to a close, it paints a picture of the multiple different outcomes the course of the characters’ lives could have taken if events had unfolded slightly differently.
If Cecilia had told Rachel about her discovery, Rachel wouldn’t have tried to hit Connor, and wouldn’t have collided with Polly. If Connor had acknowledged Polly, she wouldn’t have been hit. If Janie had broken up with John-Paul over the phone, she would have still been alive. The book suggests that they might have reconnected later in life and been married — meaning Cecilia and John-Paul never would have had Polly as a daughter.
The book is an invigorating mystery, and I also enjoy the “butterfly effect” note that it ends on. A fun, beachy read!