Book: “The Last Anniversary”, by Liane Moriarty
I’m a very selfish reader, meaning that I will leave unfinished any book, however accomplished in style and plot, if it doesn’t make me feel good or if it doesn’t keep me interested. Or if it’s too painful to read, as some of the great books are. Following the same logic, I’ll probably cut some slack to a not so good book if it’s entertaining or somehow comforting. Well, I’m only human, I guess.
“The Last Anniversary”, by Liane Moriarty pertains to the latter category, but is nevertheless something that I would recommend when you are in the mood for an easy and uplifting read.
The book tells the story of Sophie, a fairly accomplished professional, single, nearing 40 and looking for a Mr. Perfect to father her baby. Yes,” have a baby by 40”, not very new, not very unexpected, is the tagline which opens the entertaining, but definitely not plausible sequence of happenings in the book.
Sophie receives an unexpected inheritance from Aunt Connie, the relative of Thomas, her former lover, whom she broke up with because… well, because he wasn’t the love of her life, basically. Aunt Connie leaves Sophie her house on Scribbly Gum Island, which, I’m sure we all agree, is totally normal and happens every day in real life. Sophie moves in the house and gradually becomes part of the family owning the island, a collection of perfect beings, with perfect mysteries and perfect flaws. And, mind you, “mystery” is the other tagline that runs through the entire book.
The wealth of the family is based on the Munro Baby Mystery, an unfortunate happening that left a newborn girl orphan, but turned the small island into a tourist attraction. All members of the family are part of the enterprise keeping the mystery alive, but also living their personal dramas or stories of growth. I will not go too much into the actual plot, not to spoil the fun of an otherwise pleasant story, but cannot keep myself for saying once again that everything is waaaay too perfect.
Sophie is pretty, successful, has a perfect family. I mean, she goes out every week with her parents and the three of them have a little game reviewing gourmet restaurants. And there’s no irony in saying that her mother is her best friend. Aaaand, still, Sophie thinks she’s the ugly duckling when she compares herself to Grace, Nordic-like beauty, graphic designer turned children books writer and illustrator, married to Callum and mother to newly born perfect baby Jake. Actually, Grace’s life is the life Sophie dreams of, Callum is the kind of man for the potential love of whom poor Thomas was dumped, Jake is perfect even if only by being a baby. Even so, Sophie does not wish Grace to vanish or something like that, no, because Sophie cannot do such a thing. For God’s sake, no character in this book would genuinely do something like that, because – you got it – all characters are perfect. 🙂
Actually, no, only one character is not likeable and it is intentionally built like that. And that is Thomas’s wife, whose name I cannot be bothered to remember, whom he married after Sophie broke his heart and who is in fact the travel agent whom he bought a honeymoon ticket from, when he unsuccessfully proposed to Sophie. Aham… yes, you guessed it, Thomas is still in love with Sophie and the un-named unlikeable wife and mother of his baby (in the book she does have a name, but I really cannot remember it) knows about this and hates Sophie. Wow, somebody in this book is actually capable of hate.
Long story short, if you want to find flaws in the plot, this book will give you lots of opportunities. But at the same time, it is undeniable charming. Probably is the writing itself, or maybe the fact that, however hard to believe, the perfect imperfect life of these imperfectly perfect characters really draws you to the book and makes you really enjoy the read. I would say that a gloomy autumn Sunday, with a warm cup of coffee, cozy blanket and this book makes for a nice treat.