The Fifth Letter: Oh, this is a DNF. I couldn’t stand the whining

The Fifth Letter Book review

What is this about?: Four friends are off on a holiday together, when they decide to play a game that results in five secrets being written in an effort for them to recapture their past and the strengths of their friendship. Then, one discovers the fifth secret, the one someone tried to burn.

What else is this about?: Pettiness. An inability to grow up.

Stars: Nope. DNF.

Blurb: A fun vacation game turns destructive, exposing dark secrets, deeply buried grudges, and a shocking betrayal in Nicola Moriarity’s intriguing debut.

Four friends . . . 

Joni, Deb, Eden, and Trina have been best friends since high school, sharing a bond that has seen them through their teenage years and into adulthood. But now, time and circumstance is starting to pull them apart as careers, husbands, and babies get in the way. As their yearly vacation becomes less of a priority—at least for three of the women—how can Joni find a way to draw the four of them back together?

Four secrets . . . 

During a laughter and wine-filled night, the women dare one another to write anonymous letters, spilling their deepest, darkest secrets. But the fun game turns devastating, exposing cracks in their lives and the friendships they share. Each letter is a dark confession revealing shocking information. A troubled marriage? A substance abuse problem? A secret pregnancy? A heartbreaking diagnosis?

Five letters . . . 

Late on one of their last nights together, after the other three have gone to bed, Joni notices something in the fireplace—a burnt, crumpled, nearly destroyed, sheet of paper that holds the most shattering revelation of all. It is a fifth letter—a hate-filled rant that exposes a vicious, deeply hidden grudge that has festered for decades. But who wrote it? Which one of them has seethed with resentment all these years? What should Joni do?

Best friends are supposed to keep your darkest secrets. But the revelations Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina have shared will ripple through their lives with unforeseen consequences . . . and things will never be the same. 

I had high hopes for this one, even before I realised the author was Liane Moriarty’s younger sister. I might just skip Liane Moriarty’s writing after this to be honest, or just take a breather and forget this author is her sister.

Yes, this book is bad. Full disclosure, I got so irritated with how bad this book was, I stopped reading at chapter 12 (out of 24 chapters, so I made it halfway), skipped to ahead to chapter 20, got the answer I wanted and that was it. I didn’t care about anything else, that’s why there’s no rating on this.

It starts off promisingly enough, with the four friends at the holiday house, enjoying themselves and letting us get to know them.  Slowly but surely, rifts and truths start to come out between the four of them, or rather between pairs of them, leaving the others in the dark in some cases. I thought it was great portrayal of female friendships, until well, Joni.


My god is this character obsessed with her glory days of high school when it was just the four of them without pesky husbands, including her own, and kids. Joni is juvenile and stuck in the past and to be honest the constant whining and jealousy just turned me off this book. Given how much of a presence she has in the first 12 chapters, it’s hard to escape her special brand of whiny. I hoped there’s a reason for it at the end of the book, but to be honest, I don’t care what it is because Joni is just so exhaustingly bad.

The other women are infinitely more interesting and I would have liked chapters in their POVs, without Joni’s filter driving me crazy and her presence running the first 12 chapters. Which brings up another point — it takes that long for the fifth letter to come up, possibly the 12 chapters I just mentioned.

But, I need not have worried – the reason behind the fifth letter drove me crazy even more because it was just so… bad. It’s about bullying, about the effects of bullying on someone years later, which is an important topic. But, it was just so terribly executed. And also, just sad in the way you wonder what other brilliant book might’ve got shelved for this one to get published.

Man, what a waste. When I reced it, I thought it had all the elements of an e xcellent story. I fully admit all of this could have made sense by the end, but I did not care enough to keep reading.

Now I just have to get to the point where I forget this author is Liane Moriarty’s sister.


  • Oh I didn’t know Liane Moriarty’s sister was an author too. I apparently should forget though huh?? Sounds like this was not good at all and I will make sure to stay away! Greta review!

    • Verushka says:

      I know I’m trying my best to forget they’re sisters, blah. Those 12 chapters felt like a whole book that should have ended ages before that.

  • Oh I’m so sorry this didn’t work. There’s too much whining in the real world and I certainly don’t want to spend my reading time with it as well. I’m glad I read this review. The premise does sound great and I’d probably pick it up if I saw it and since I have an extremely difficult time DNF’ing books, I’d have had to suffer through the whole darn thing. Great save!

    • Verushka says:

      EXACTLY! Real world has enough whining thanks very much! The worst thing is, the premise is delicious, and I can see elements of goodness in what I read, but my god Joni just ruined it for me. And the ending needed more finessing to work and not be THAT bad. SIGHS. I wanted this to be so good Barb, I really did.

  • Angela says:

    Yikes! I hadn’t heard of this before, but will now be forgetting I ever did! Glad you DNFed instead of suffering all the way through!

    • Verushka says:

      My curiosity about the secret got the better of me, and that’s all I wanted to know. I almost wish I didn’t because it was such a let down too.

  • Lily says:

    Oh dear lord no. I do not have room for those kind of characters with my patience.

  • Kelly says:

    This could have been a wonderful read without Joni. I know authors use unlikable characters as a point of difference but no one enjoys a whinger. She sounds like someone you’d want to punch in the face quite frankly 😀

    • Verushka says:

      That my dear is so apt — I wanted to punch her int he face repeatedly. Why some of her friends didn’t, I have no idea.

  • Greg says:

    Aw sorry to hear this one was a dud. I also didn’t realize this was Liane Moriarty’s sister! Sounds like she’s trying to write a similar story- I could see this being a LM plot, kinda. And I really like the LM stuff I’ve read, though some are better than others. I guess I’ll hold off on Nicola’s stuff though maybe… 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      I I’ve always heard good things about LM too, and when I realised she’s her sister, it was still at a time I wanted to give this book a good shot. The book worked a bit for me, but slowly my frustrations just kept increasing and… the result is a very emphatic, shall we say review. Sighs. I really didn’t like this did I?

  • Wow, it sounds like nothing about this book worked for you. :/ I’ve not heard of these Moriarty sister before, but I think I’ll pass on all of their books. I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy this book, Verushka! Hopefully your next read is better!

    Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Verushka says:

      Here’s to my next read indeed, Alyssa! That’s why I have no regrets DNF-ing — there’s always something better ahead. Nods.

  • Ugh, sorry this one was so bad and not executed well since bullying IS a serious topic. It had such a nice premise too…haha

    • Verushka says:

      It made the actual bullying… laughable. I mean, I get the impact, but the circumstances of the reveal just… no.

  • Wow, this sounds SO bad. I fully plan on trolling Goodreads for spoilers, just because I am curious, but definitely NOT curious enough to put up with Joni and her special brand of awful. Like on one hand, I DO get being wistful for high school, and like, times with less responsibility or whatever. But Joni seemed like she wanted them all to ditch their families and go sign up for round 2. Clearly, the moral of this story is, Joni needs therapy and probably a divorce. Now, off you go to wipe this from your mind 😉 Great review though! Hope the next book is MUCH better for yoU!

    • Verushka says:

      I think it got pretty good reviews on Goodreads? Must’ve otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it up — Goodreads is my go-to site for reviews. I am actually kind of nervous posting this there,because I hated it so much. Oh yeah, in the beginning I totally understood where Joni was coming from in being wistful for high school… but it kept going. And then the pacing — it didn’t need half a book to get to the actual letter, it could’ve been done a lot sooner. And God, you said it — therapy, the whole lot of them. SIGHS. I’ve put a great big black spot in my head where the memory of this book is. Nods. Looking forward to the next one. THUMBS UP

  • The sass, Verushka! I love it! “What’s this book about? Pettiness.” LOL. Poor execution of an important topic is always super depressing.

    • Verushka says:

      I was in such a mood when I wrote this 🙂 so it had to come out somewhere! Execution is everything in a topic like bullying. It has to be. Except you know, here.

  • Michelle says:

    I have heard nothing but good things about the Moriarty sisters, but from the sounds of it, this book in particular doesn’t sound like something I would really enjoy – the points you raise are very valid. It’s frustrating to see an important topic explored poorly. Also, I am a strong believer that characters don’t have to be likeable, but I think their frustrating features have to be understandable.

    • Verushka says:

      I’ve heard wonderful things about Liane, but I didn’t even know she had a sister until finding this book. Joni overpowered the other characters in a way, and her POV dominated everything. There might very well have been understanding for her within in the book at some stage, but I didn’t have the stomach to continue reading. And I have no regrets in that regard.

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