Sunday, July 26, 2015

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published July 2014 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: purchased as my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:
My three are all in their twenties now, but the politics involved in being the parents of school-aged children are still fresh in my mind making Big Little Lies a story I knew would be relatable.

Pirrete Public may have a principal and staff of teachers, but it is ruled by the Blonde Bobs, a group of moms who all seem to have the same hairdo. There is an ongoing debate about who is doing more for their children and the school - the stay-at-home moms or the working moms. At what to make of the stay-at-home dads? When two moms which big personalities start to fall out, which side will the other parents land on? And behind it all, what kind of secrets are each of these parents hiding? Yep, pretty much sums up my experiences with the parents, especially when my kids where in grade school, where parent involvement is at a frenzied high.

Liane Moriarty has an uncanny ability to take very heavy topics and deal with them in a way that feels very real. At the same time, she imbues them with humor ("Champagne is always a good idea") and everyday events that make her books approachable. So here we have a book that runs the gamut on violence - schoolyard bullying, physical abuse, rape, and sex trafficking. To make it all work, Moriarty focuses on mostly ordinary people going about their lives - lives that, like most of ours, include humor and sadness, little problems and big crises.

In Big Little Lies, the story centers around the events leading up to a death. Along the way, Moriarty plays with her readers, including a Greek chorus of police interviewees introducing or closing chapters, offering readers glimpses into the central characters and tossing out a few red herrings along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed Big Little Lies. There are bad guys, little guys to cheer for, situations that made me laugh, violence that made me cringe. I felt like I knew these women (and some of the men) and understood what they were going through, even when I had never been through it myself.

Jane's sadness is a mystery that will slowly be revealed but, when it is, what happened to her is less about what happened physically and more about the harm that words can do. I think it's something everyone can relate to, especially women, who are constantly bombarded by images of what we should look like.
"Whey did I feel so weirdly violated by those two words? More than anything else he did to me, it was those two words that hurt. 'Fat.' 'Ugly.'"
In Celeste, Moriarty gives readers a new way to look at abused women and why they don't leave. Poor Celeste was so willing to take the blame and so quick to think that the abuse was the price she paid for the lifestyle she was able to live.
"...each time she didn't leave, she gave him tacit permission to do it again. She Knew this. She was an educated woman with choices, place to go, family and friends who would gather around, lawyers who would represent her. She could go back to work and support herself. She wasn't frightened that he'd kill her if she tried to leave. She wasn't frightened that he'd take the children away from her."
"I don't think I deserve it. But I'm not a victim. I hit him back. I throw things at this. So I'm just as bad as he is. Sometimes I start it. I mean, we're just in a very toxic relationship. We need techniques, we need strategies to help make us stop."
None of Celeste's friends know about the abuse. So while I was thinking of all of the ways this book reminded me of my personal experiences, it also made me wonder which of the moms I knew were going through this. In all of the people I met in eighteen years of getting all three of my kids from kindergarten through high school, there is almost certain to have been someone who suffered in silence.
"It occurred to her that there were so many levels of evil in the world. Small evils like her own malicious words. Like not inviting a child to a party. Bigger evils like walking out on your wife and newborn baby or sleeping with the nanny. And then there was the sort of evil of which Madeline had no experience: cruelty in hotel rooms and violence in suburban homes and little girls being sole like merchandise, shattering innocent hearts."

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