Liane Moriarty, author of “Big Little Lies” (reviewed here) and “The Husband’s Secret” (reviewed here) spins this deeply introspective novel on love, romantic loss, and the insecurities we feel but rarely voice. Ellen O’Farrell is a therapeutic hypnotist – she puts people into a trance to face deeply held fears, habits, and vices. She thrives at helping everyone but herself. Now in her 30s, she’s alone, still over analyzing past break ups, and she craves the stability of a husband, a child, and a family. Born of a single physician mother, Ellen missed out on having a father and now wants the family structure she never had. She meets Patrick online. Patrick is a widower and father to eight year old Jack. He seems perfect until he confesses that he’s being stalked by an ex-girlfriend, Saskia. Moving between Ellen and Patrick’s burgeoning relationship and the inner thoughts of Saskia, we learn about Saskia’s past relationship with Patrick, how she became Jack’s surrogate mother, and how she was rudely ousted shortly after her own mother’s death. Now Saskia stalks Patrick, Ellen, and Jack, unable to let go of the perfect life she once had. Ellen is abnormally unperturbed by it all until Saskia becomes more desperate and shows up everywhere, including their bedroom in the middle of the night.
As always, Ms. Moriarty excels at feminine inner conflict – Ellen and Saskia brood over their insecurities, their inner demons, their flawed upbringings, and their own takes on reality. Each woman has her own difficulties, perspective, and outlook that causes her to question herself as time passes. Ellen stews about Patrick’s deceased first wife, who was martyred by cancer shortly after Jack’s birth. Saskia obsesses about Patrick’s abrupt dismissal, which tore her from Jack’s life forever. Although the roller coaster rides through female emotions is monumental, the plot here, is not. It ends abruptly and in a very unsatisfactory manner. We learn so much about each woman – her thoughts, fears, hopes, and goals – but a sudden, sloppy ending is all readers get. It’s huge momentum that ends in a whisper. Ms. Moriarty does this female internal struggle to much greater effect in “Big Little Lies”, so I’d recommend either of her other books (reviewed at the links above) over this one. It’s incredibly difficult to pair internal angst with plot suspense, and Ms. Moriarty achieves that…just not here. Think of this book as practice writing and move onto her more recent works to see those two elements come together in a more satisfying way.
Amazon link is here.