Friday, September 16, 2016

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty / Book Review

By: Liane Moriarty
Published by: Penguin
Released on: 8/11/2015
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Source: Purchased

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - whoosh, what a story!!

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

It's been a while since I've broken out of my predictable, YA-only reading cycle. Lately, I've found myself picking up on the sameness of some of the publishing industry's predictable releases. The YA world seems to go through trends more apparently than other sectors of publishing, and I was feeling, frankly, bored. I perused my shelves and remembered that a friend (hey there, Emm, from Mundie Moms!)  had sent me a copy of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies as a present about a year ago. I started the book and couldn't put it down except to get the kids to and from school.

Liane gets school politics in a small suburban setting. The pecking order of mamas in Kindergarten was so very real that I found myself laughing at the fact that all the super-involved, PTO moms went to the same hairdresser and sported the same haircut. The feeling of having to participate in school events, the prejudices certain people hold against you just because of your social status, marital status and of course, economic status are all beautifully portrayed here. Liane uncovers the dark side of picturesque suburban living by exposing what goes on behind closed bedroom doors -- the fights, the stress and in some cases, the abuse (let me pause and add that one of the characters is physically and verbally abused by her husband if this is something you wish to avoid reading, this book may not be for you).

Having mentioned a trigger warning, I want to jump in to Liane's characters. Celeste has lived in an abusive relationship for years. But, this isn't a Hollywood-ized version of an abused wife, this is so real that you find yourself relating to Celeste. She fights back. She plans to leave. She realizes that this is not good for her five-year-old boys. Yet, she rationalizes staying and while I was SCREAMING at her in my head, I understood why she wanted to stay. This is the intricate level of characterization that Liane wrote into the story. And you will understand the other two main characters, Jane and Madeline in the same way. You will watch their friendship unfold, and you will be reminded of those moments when your own friendships with women blossomed and grew into whispered secrets, shared joys and unexpected downturns.

Life is so complicated. It's never just a clear, happy, straight line. There are twists and curves in all our roads and every once in a while, there is a hairpin turn that pops out of nowhere. Friendship buoys us through all of these moments. Big Little Lies was a book I expected to be suspenseful (nice trick of using a backwards timeline from the all important Trivia Night at school), but I didn't expect to be caught up in the deep emotions of these three women. I felt it all, and I hope you will, too.

In case you're wondering, yes, I've already ordered three more of Liane's books. Her writing is that good that I need to read all of her stories. Also, HBO is releasing Big Little Lies as a limited run series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Whitherspoon. What an awesome cast. I know they will bring this story to life.