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Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty Book Review

laugh out loud

Laugh Out Loud Funny Book

Three sisters, triplets, constantly in one scrape or another, turn 34 and nearly kill each other at their birthday party. The stranger’s description starts calmly enough as he barely notices the triplets and struggles to pay attention to his blind date. Then the pregnant triplet has a fork thrown into her belly while the thrower screams that the other triplets have ruined her life. Throughout the book, strangers tell us their impression of the girls, Gemma, Cat and Lyn. Here is one of the flashback episodes.

“Paula said, “Triplets! Aren’t they sweet!” And at that very moment, one child grabbed another one and sank her teeth into her bare arm! The bitten child screamed blue murder! And the mother said, very firmly, something like, “I said no biting today! That’s it! We’re all going home!” Pandemonium! They scattered, like a bomb had fallen, pelting off in different directions! How that poor girl managed to get them home I don’t know. Well, Paula and I were gob-smacked.

We had no idea children bit one another, like savage little animals! You know what we did straight after our perms? We went to the new Family Planning Clinic in the city and got ourselves prescriptions for the Pill. We did! Perms and the Pill on the same day. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Moriarty, Liane. Three Wishes: A Novel (p. 61). Harper Collins. Kindle Edition.

Introduction to the Triplets

Gemma

Gemma was the odd one out, the fraternal triplet, and the compromiser. She had also become a bit stranger after the death of her fiancé. We learn there is a huge issue she’s been hiding from her sisters about the man she was to marry before he got hit by a bus. She couldn’t seem to hold a job but housesat for people.

“Now she walked up to the row of pots on the windowsill and caressed their leaves. She called them all Violet, her own private joke. “What was that locksmith’s name? Mmmm? Violet? Any ideas? What about you, Violet? Now, Violet, I bet you remember!” The Violets were silent, as stumped as she was.”

Cat

Cat was the bad girl who married Dan, the sexiest man alive.  The problem was that Dan’s sex life included others besides his wife. When she found out all the secrets he had kept from her, her world started to unravel. By the end of the book, Dan’s one-night stand with a younger woman was the least of her worries.

“Thirteen days, where she hadn’t known what he wore to work, what he ate for dinner, who pissed him off, what made him laugh on TV.”

Lyn

Lyn was the sane and sensible triplet met her husband-to-be on the plane ride home from Europe to attend Gemma’s fiancé’s funeral. In the process, she ruined his marriage. That union gave her a step-daughter who hated her and her own daughter who had her Aunt Cat’s chaotic personality.

The successful businesswoman and mother started having panic attacks set off by the chaos in the lives of the people she tried to manage – her sisters and daughters. Her two-year-old’s public tantrums started the wrecking ball in her life. This is what she thought about her panic attacks.

“Yes, a panic attack, which was really nothing to worry about. Oh, she’d be so enthusiastically sympathetic, so know-it-all, typical Lyn. She’d explain how she’d read all about these “attacks” and they were really quite common and there were techniques you could learn to deal with them. But they weren’t meant to happen to her. Other, more fragile people were meant to have panic attacks. People in need of looking after. O.K., if she was being completely honest—slightly silly people. Not Lyn. An event occurred. You flicked through your mental filing case of potential emotional responses and you chose the appropriate response. That was emotional intelligence, that was personal development, that was Lyn’s specialty.”

Moriarty, Liane. Three Wishes: A Novel (pp. 214-215). Harper Collins. Kindle Edition.

Eighteen Tips Authors Can Try Immediately

I learned from Story Genius and Wired for Story that reading extensively does not teach you how to write. As a result, I’ve tried to be more analytical as I read.

Do you do that?

Authors that write books about writing books do. My editor recommended this book to me as a way to show more inner thoughts from my characters, but I gathered up a few specific strategies that I think I can use to make it funnier and flow better. What do you think of these?

  1. Want to make your character sound like a Pollyanna? Here’s a quote from Cat.  “Worse things could happen.” Cat then referred to horrible things in the news or the past – like the Holocaust that were worse compared to Dan’s one-night stand.
  2. Wrap your backstory around the news events, personal events, things that the characters shared over the decades.
  3. Illustrate a time-lapse for things that happen daily in your character’s life if he/she misses them. “Thirteen days, where she hadn’t known what he wore to work, what he ate for dinner, who pissed him off, what made him laugh on TV.”
  4. Sickness is a great way to avoid details. “Her blocked sinuses and muffled head wouldn’t let her pin down the memory.”
  5. Lots of bad things happening to main characters
    1. Cat – at least 8 horrible events
    2. One bad thing in Gemma’s past one major secret, one bad event
    3. Lyn – at least 4 major setbacks
    4. Dad lost a finger.
  6. All three girls were jealous of each other and thought that the other one had it easier, and this comes out in the inner conversation. This makes the descriptions of each character’s strength more enviable and realistic.
  7. Here’s a way to get around naming places and sounding like a Chamber of Commerce, call the place a “new restaurant.”
  8. Use old or out of date words like “gob-smacked” to show an emotion.
  9. Have your character compare herself or others to a heroine in a book she likes that most people know. Cat did not get along with her mother and was doing something she felt was heroic for her. “Cat had been feeling like the old maid daughter, the saintly one, Beth in Little Women—except she wasn’t dying, unfortunately.” (Her mother didn’t see her that way at all.)
  10. Use dreams and nightmares to foreshadow what will happen. Later it happens in a more realistic form. The dream is hilarious in Three Wishes, by the way.
  11. Include inanimate objects talking and characters talking to them. – The violets
  12. Record a stranger’s reactions to watching an episode and note how it affected the viewer.
  13. Include an old newsletter, diary entry, school project, or letter that one of them wrote as a child and read together 20 years later
  14. Writing description is hard for me. Liane assessed someone responsible for Gem’s acquiring a passion for a certain musical group that didn’t seem that objectionable to me and compared it to someone giving her herpes. Obviously, the triplet that described the passion did not approve of it.
  15. Get more out of descriptions by integrating them with emotions. As they waited for traffic, Cat noticed a family with a little flirt going on between husband and wife. Since Cat has marital problems, the author describes this short scene in the environment which gives us a glimpse into Cat’s thinking. I thought this was an efficient and effective technique. Here’s an example using emotional words to describe ordinary environmental objects – “disdainful white walls, rather alarming firey explosions coming from the kitchen.” I’d be worried about eating in a “new place” like that. I don’t know If it would call for throwing a fork in someone’s tummy.
  16. Assess important events – divorce, rape, suicide in the inner thoughts of the characters as ugly words like zucchini, which I find funny because I like zucchini and it is such a shallow word to equate to a serious event.
  17. Liane shares her character’s deep inner childish thoughts. When Gem was six and her parents divorced, her sisters convinced her that she was adopted. These were her six-year-old thoughts. This also reveals that she knew how childish they were, but seemed to be just coming to the conclusion that she was a valued triplet.

“What would happen to her, (if her mother chose Lyn and her father chose Cat) what would she eat for dinner, She didn’t know how to cook a chicken! She didn’t even know how to buy a chicken. What did you say? One chicken, please? What if they laughed at her? How much did a chicken cost anyway? She only had $3.00 saved up.”

18. Give the aha moment an unexpected twist. Gem had problems you would think forgiving someone else, but she turns it into something unexpected and deeper. Notice the inanimate Violets come up again in an inner conversation of Gem’s. Even they were caught off guard about who Gemma was forgiving.

“You were nineteen. You didn’t imagine it. You didn’t deserve it. You didn’t secretly like it. When he died, it was weird and confusing. Of course it was. You loved him as much as you hated him. I’m sorry for being so nasty about it for all this time. “I forgive you,” she said out loud. Who, Marcus? the Violets called out nosily from the windowsill. No! I never stopped forgiving him! Me. I forgive me for staying with him.”

Five Star Review

Yep, I loved this book. I rarely laugh out loud when I’m by myself reading. I smile a lot when a book is really funny. This book made me guffaw.

10 replies »

  1. I love your most excellent in-depth reviews Marsh. I am adding this book to my TBR,. and I also look forward to Goodwin’s book when I get to that one too on my huge reading list. ❤

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  2. Oh my goodness, Marsha. I can see similarities between this book and your story. Can’t wait to see how you integrate what you have learned. The points you draw out and illustrate with examples from the book are great. I’d love to hear you guffawing at this one. I think it must go on my TBR list.

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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