The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Joni, Eden, Deb, and Trina have been friends since high school, when a teacher grouped them together by their last names. However, as they age, it seems the women are growing apart. Desperate to keep her friends together, Joni books a vacation house for them by the ocean. It's been a yearly tradition for the group, and she's insistent they all keep it up. However, it becomes clear that the women are a little reluctant to gather together: three of them are mothers now, and many are busy with their careers and other worries. So they come up with an idea: they'll write anonymous letters on an old computer at the beach cottage, and read one a night during their vacation. But the game turns dark quickly, as the women struggle to guess who wrote what letter. Even worse, Joni discovers a "fifth letter" in the fireplace; partially burned, it appears to be filled with hate toward one of the women in the group (from another). The foursome is supposed to be the best of friends, but it appears it isn't so. Can they recover from this vacation? And who in the group wrote that awful letter?
I feel terrible, as I really enjoy the other Moriarty sisters (Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty), but I just didn't care for this book at all. Throughout the entire novel, I never found myself able to care for these four women or their problems whatsoever. The premise of the book seemed utterly ridiculous: why on earth would a group of grown women write a bunch of letters like children and if they were such good friends, how could they know so little about each other? It was painful to read. Furthermore, the book itself was difficult to read. The book was set up in various ways: we had the current day thread at the beach cottage; we had threads in the past with the girls at school. Then, there's a thread where Joni is telling a priest (via confession) about what had happened at the cottage. Then we get pieces of the letters. Then we get snippets from the fifth letter. It was so utterly confusing that for parts of it, I couldn't tell who was talking, or what the dialogue related to, and it drove me insane.
Pieces of the women's problems were resolved far too easily, while others were blown far too out of proportion. Others were incredibly serious and just - ugh. When the big "reveal" happened, it made me cringe. I feel awful, but it almost felt like a bad imitation of Liane's book, Truly Madly Guilty. A bunch of angst leading to a big "reveal," which sort of leaves you feeling let down.
Overall, I have high admiration for the Moriarty sisters, and I truly feel bad that I didn't enjoy this book more. I just couldn't find any sympathy with the characters, and the way the novel was laid out irked me. I kept comparing it with another book where the women escape for a girls getaway: Girls' Weekend, which was such a more nuanced and enjoyable portrayal of some similar subjects. I would recommend picking up Achterberg's book instead.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 01/24/2017.
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