(Summary via Goodreads) 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 Review of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
“Helicopter parents. Before I started at Pirriwee Public, I thought it was an exaggeration, this thing about parents being overly involved with their kids. I mean, my mum and dad loved me, they were, like, interested in me when I was growing up in the nineties, but they weren’t, like, obsessed with me…Mothers took their mothering so seriously now. Their frantic little faces…Ponytails swinging. Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”
The world of helicopter moms is one that I am familiar with because of my profession. I’ve been lucky enough that my teaching career has not brought any petitions to expel students across my desk, but then again, it hasn’t featured any vodka-doused Trivia Night fundraisers either. I found myself intrigued because this triptych-formatted novel connected to me in various ways, no matter if it was through the insecure single-mother, the overly aggressive, sarcastic head-of-a-blended-household, or the mom whose outward appearance to perfectly coasting through life made people wonder, “how does she do it all?” I’m not a mother, yet I saw myself in each one of these women, and that is the true gift of an author.
“Every day I think, ‘Gosh, you look a bit tired today,’ and it’s just recently occurred to me that it’s not that I’m tired, it’s that this is the way I look now.”
“If she packaged the perfect Facebook life, maybe she would start to believe it herself.”
When I first began reading Big Little Lies, I didn’t know where the plot lines would take me or how they would intersect with one another. The one commonality between Jane, Celeste, and Madeline was that they had children stating out kindergarten in the same classroom. How typical their experiences must be for all the parents around the world. The fear and insecurity of properly raising children, the hopes that the choices that they made are worth the grief they will put their spouses and children through, and withstanding the judgmental looks and commentary from other parents and well-meaning meddlers. As the stories began to play out, and the relationships between the three mothers developed into a friendships, their truths began to surface. It was a natural progression, and the reader became another trusted figure. We too had to earn the trust to be let into the turmoil that motivated each woman to either act, react, or reflect. And it’s this organic development that makes the characters believable and one that you can empathize with. This is one of Moriarty’s greatest gifts: creating characters who are tainted, yet you want to see them succeed. They are redeemable.
“Your inferiority was right there on display for the world to see.”
“All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think?”
The tone is quickly established by Moriarty’s structural choices. This story is told by direct narration, but also through clips of interviews conducted by local police detectives. By switching back and forth in tenses, the reader is given glimpses into the conclusion of the conflicts, but is continually given tidbits as to how to determine their opinion. Additionally, the sarcasm and flippancy shown by the parents on both sides of the conflict add to the authenticity of the plot.
“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”
“Stick with the nice boys…bad boys don’t bring you coffee in bed, I’ll tell you that for free.”
Ultimately, I loved this novel. The combination of humor and tragedy created an experience for the reader that brought the characters to life. The characters were both ridiculous and humane. It’s an easy read that makes you want to turn the page to see where these conflicts are going to have to go for resolution. Intrigue found on a kindergarten playground is rare, but Moriarty pulls it off.
Other books by Liane Moriarty: