The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (2005)

As a fan of all of Liane Moriarty’s novels, I was excited to pick up The Last Anniversary and find that I had left one unread. The day before we left for our annual beach trip, I settled in to bed early and read the entire book. While not as wonderful as some of her other novels (my favorite remains Big Little Lies), it was filled with great character portraits and juicy family dramas that she is know for.

The novel tells the story of the members of an extended Australian family who live on Scribbly Gum Island off the coast of Sydney. Deftly moving between the points of view of the various members of the family, and also moving us back and forth through time, Moriarty presents current-day dramas as well as the moments in the past — stretching as far back as the 1930’s — that led up to them.

When the story begins, we meet our main character Sophie who, at almost forty, is feeling panicked at the thought that she has missed her chance for marriage and family. She finds herself dwelling on her most recent boyfriend Thomas — whose proposal she turned down two years prior — when she is shocked to learn that his aunt has died and left Sophie a house on Scribbly Gum.

This bequest to give the house to a non-family member stirs up hostility and ill-will among the family, all of who are struggling with other issues beyond that of the loss of their Aunt and her unusual will. Each member of the family tells her or his story, past and present, in their own voice and allows us to see what is prompting their, sometimes outsized, reactions to recent goings on.

We meet Rose; an aging woman who swamped by grief and is growing tried of secrets. Also Grace, a beautiful artist so deep in the clutches of post-partum depression that she is nearly suicidal. Grace’s husband Callum who deeply loves his wife but is terrified of how much she has changed since the baby arrived. Margie, an overweight, middle-aged woman who has recently decided her life is no longer working for her, including her marriage to the mean and small-minded Ron. Veronika, a young woman filled inexplicably with rage toward her family and friends and who is working to pit them all against one another. Finally, the head of the family and local celebrity Enigma who relishes her role as local legend and family secret-keeper and who is getting very put out by her family’s lack of interest in keeping secrets secret.

Their stories unfold together and in the end paint a deep and touching picture of a family…in all it’s loud, messy, loving, complicated, and funny glory.

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Map from the book jacket of The Last Anniversary.

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