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.
Liane Moriarty defines the oxymoronic title of her novel, Big Little Lies, with the story of three women whose lives crash into each other, creating chaos that will underscore just how big little lies can be.
The synopsis of this novel pretty much sums up the characters that play the larger roles in this novel, yet each of the three women have secrets that come spilling out, one drop at a time, connecting them to the reader. Though this book is about mothers of young children, there is such a larger dynamic force at work here that will surprise readers. As HBO has recently released the show that is based on this book, I already knew, roughly, what would happen in the novel. However, the book (per usual) goes into much more detail about the character's feelings by providing their point of view and even a little stream of consciousness writing.
Madeline's character is much more likeable in the novel than in the show. I hate to make comparisons but it's true. Readers get a better in-depth look into what drives her. And, essentially, that is the fact that her ex-husband Nathan called it quits right after their daughter was born. That betrayal has scarred Madeline and she has vowed that she will never forgive him, even though she is remarried to a seemingly great husband, Ed, and has two more children. Readers will connect with Madeline, as they will with all of the characters, emotionally. Madeline is prompted into action by her emotions, whether they be anger or loyalty or love.
Celeste and Jane are the main secret keepers of the cast of characters. Celeste has a life that seems perfect from the outside, but she's in love with a man (spoiler alert) that cannot control his anger. His abuse grows and evolves as the novel progresses, reaching a point where Celeste actually begins to believe he may kill her. Through Celeste, readers get an inside look at a relationship that is toxic and bruised by physical abuse. It's difficult to understand how someone would stay in an abusive relationship, but Moriarty does a fantastic job at relaying all the different facets of information that can go into making that decision. The answer to an abusive relationship isn't black or white. Like life, it's full of different hues of gray. As Celeste weighs her options and begins planning for a life without her abusive husband, readers will see how her mind works, the thoughts and feelings that push her to stay as well as the ones that make her want to escape.
Jane has just moved to the area of Australia in which this story takes place with her son, Ziggy. She has a dark secret as well and that is that Ziggy is the result of a semi-violent one night stand. This experience has scarred her and she can't seem to move past it. However, as she finds new friendships with Celeste and Madeline, readers will see how Jane begins to heal. Readers will also see how much of an impact that this one night had on Jane's psyche as she struggles with an eating disorder and her self-esteem.
As I said, readers will connect with these characters emotionally, but the main plot of the novel is set up as a frame. It is introduced early on that there was a death, a murder, at the school trivia night. As the novel progresses from six months before the incident, readers learn the ins and outs of the school and its hierarchy as well as witness the intricacies and selfish natures of the school parents. Through the revelation of secrets, the list of possible people who could have been murdered grows substantially to involve all of the main characters. And for those who have seen the show, the deceased is the same person, yet, the tumultuous situations that lead the characters to the balcony are more fully described and there is no cliffhanger ending of keeping the truth away from the police. Big Little Lies is truly a complicated network of cause and effect that culminates in a powerful statement about bullying, abuse, and violence in general. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery with a large amount of drama and in-depth character analysis.
Rating: 4.5/5 Cups