One college summer, in a 20th Century American Literature class, I was pleasantly surprised to find the reading list included Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. The professor said, “People enjoy reading her, so naturally, the critics are suspicious.” It must be so awful to be a critic. Think of all the reading material they are forced to consume on the sly. Their copy of Carl Hiaasen’s latest would have to be cloaked up in a misleading book jacket from another, less enjoyable work, in case their spouse should walk in and catch them in flagrante with a light read. They must be dying for a break from books they have to grimly plow through and expound upon in erudite fashion.
Phew! Thank heavens I am not a critic! If I enjoy a book, then it’s a good book. Want a good book? I will do you one better. Here’s a whole author: Liane Moriarty. Besides having a degree in library science, I am an avid library user. I never buy books (I need all my money to cover my library fines). I am the reason bookstores continue to go out of business and I will continue to apologize for this. But Liane Moriarty is one of a scant few authors whose books I will buy. I know I will read them fast, like them instantly and pass them on with unreserved recommendations.
Sydney-based Moriarty writes plot-driven tales, yes, but she manages something that I almost never see in popular fiction: her books ask big questions. Idea-driven fiction can be dull and pedantic but if you can write a compelling tale about love, loss, lies, attraction, secrets, disappointment, forgiveness, (let’s see, what else is there in life?…Oh wait, I know: sex and death!) and at the same time, make your readers ask themselves important questions, then critics take a holiday! Loosen your ties, kick off your constricting pumps and read Liane Moriarty right now. What Alice Forgot will have you recalling what you were once passionate and earnest about before you became who you are now. The Husband’s Secret (trust me, it’s a whopper) will have you wondering what you could and should forgive, and whether love and forgiveness are inseparable. Her questions don’t feel forced, tacked on or extracted painstakingly from the narrative, but arise organically in the course of intriguing stories with likeable characters.
I don’t know about you, but I have a little vacation coming up and I am looking for something medium-light to devour. Moriarty’s latest, Big Little Lies, was just released in the U.S. this week. I hope you have shed those tight shoes by now, because you are going to need to sprint to the bookstore. On your marks…
P.S. I know you might think this is women-only literature, but my friend Eric – who is very manly and likes to jump out of planes – reads her books.