Book Review: Big Little Lies

Big_Little_Lies_Cover

This has been my favorite Liane Moriarty book thus far, though it is peppered with what another reviewer referred to as a “Greek chorus”–little asides where minor characters or characters we never get to meet have lines like in a stage play, talking about a death (without mentioning whose) that occurred at a school-sponsored Audrey and Elvis-themed Trivia Night.

The “chorus” was simply the author’s way of hooking us from the beginning.  I’ve learned to distinguish when I should try to remember a name and when to drop it (pardon the pun).

Plot, for me, has always come secondary to characters; this book had incredible characterization.  In Big Little Lies, people aren’t just that way they are, but they have reasons for being the way they are and for doing the things they do.  You also learn about them as you would in real life–a little bit at a time.

I found myself wishing I could live where the Blue Blues coffee shop was (I wanted Tom’s coffee and Jane’s muffins), where I could tap away at my laptop next to a view of the beach while my daughter was in school (and my hubby was at work).  None of the three main mothers in this book had to work full-time jobs (the one that came close could work remotely)–so, in this way, Big Little Lies was pure escapism (or fantasy) for me.

Overall, Big Little Lies was about well-educated white women (who could support themselves if they had to) and their little and not-so-little problems.  The lack of diversity was a problem for some, but I’m glad the author chose realism over political correctness. Not every place is like New York City, and there is nothing wrong with that.  We don’t have to all be the same, any more than we all have to be different. What’s more, just because the women were all “color-coordinated” didn’t mean they were all the same; I work with 10 other white women, and we are all vastly different individuals.

The only problem I had with this book was that g-d was used a few times.  That is always a sour note.

As for the characters:   The White’s marital relationship was so deftly done, so not cliche of every Lifetime movie I’ve ever seen, that I knew the author must have done her homework.  When I skimmed the back of the book, I saw that she had read up on the subject. I think having Celeste White’s full speech might have been nice (being a fan of monologues and the Toastmasters organization), but the fade-out effect worked, too.

Some reviewers thought this book was shallow, but only Madeline came across that way and that was because that was her character.  However, I found her loyalty to her friends a rare and admirable trait. A book doesn’t have to be all “mean streets of New York” like a Law and Order episode with lots of gray walls and black dresses to be about a serious subject.  Life is absurd in the best of ways and the worst of ways, and Moriarty captured all that.

That said, Bonnie did come across as a cliche, being very “socially conscious,” a vegetarian, and someone who doesn’t watch television.  (Not even PBS.) However, stereotypes are hard to avoid completely because so many of them fit someone we know in the real world, just like when Madeline was describing one of the career moms who was always coming from or going to a board meeting.  I am guessing that the author is a whimsical woman in real life–not the buttoned-down, corporate type.

Being a mother herself, she presented a very realistic view of motherhood and even those who choose to go into the teaching profession.  (That was a rather comical moment.)

I will say that these are the most involved parents I’ve ever read about.  Maybe it’s a small town thing, an Australian thing, or an ethnically homogenous community thing, or all of the above.  It was like Peyton Place, except Australian and modern.

As for the plot, there were a few surprises, and the twist at the end was a “whoa” moment.

I loved that this book was just as focused on female friendships and motherhood as it was on marriage and romance.

Not every character gets a lot of “screen time,” but they all added something to the story.

I didn’t even know there was a TV-series until I read some of the reviews, so I will give it a try.

The book did raise a few questions:  If someone is kind in so many ways, but cruel in so many others, which is the real person?  Is it the bad, or both? Can the good even be real in the presence of the bad, or does the bad cancel it out?

And does doing unsavory things, if it’s for the greater good, ever make it okay?  Is it okay to sacrifice oneself to sin in order to save others from being sinned against?

And is it always worth it to go through something terrible if such was the only way to get something wonderful–something that couldn’t have been gotten any other way?  When is it just not worth it?

I can’t wait to read another Moriarty book because unlike a lot of the other “chick lit” out there, these are all different (I like a style writer rather than a formula writer) with characters you’d love to know in a place you’d love to visit (and maybe even live).

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19486412-big-little-lies

 

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