Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty
Published: July 29, 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (460 pages)
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.
Short and Sweet Version
If you loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette I bet you would love Big Little Lies, too. Big Little Lies is full of quirky characters, great humor, gossip, intrigue, and mystery. It’s addicting to read. And somehow, at the same time, it talks about abuse, lies, and the objectification of women in a thoughtful and moving way.
Jessica Thinks Too Much Version
This book is about deep issues like abuse and lies so how did Liane Moriarty make it so funny? I think it was a combination of blunt honesty and creative writing that made this book amazing. Right from page one we get snooty internal commentary from a cat that sets the tone for the whole book. Sadly, the cat doesn’t really show up again but the humor sticks around. (And can I just say that a book about a person going on with their daily life that is narrated by a sarcastic cat would be an excellent book. Someone should write that.)
If this quote doesn’t perfectly describe people on their phone all the time then I don’t know what does (I’m one of them, ok? Not judging).
Mothers took their mothering so seriously now. Their frantic little faces. […] Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 2
I think my phone/compass has a setting that heads straight for the corner of my counters and table. Anyway.
Chick lit and murder mystery had a baby and it is this adorable book that you just want to eat up and pinch it’s wittle cheeks. The narrative of the story is interrupted by hilarious interviews between the residents and the police officer about a murder that has happened. The interviews unearthed mostly gossip and unhelpful information but oh are they so much fun to read. At first, I felt like I needed to keep all the people straight in the interviews but I don’t think you really need to. Unlike other murder mysteries where you are trying to find who did it by following a revolting trail of disturbing clues, this book doesn’t even tell you who died. Part of the fun is trying to figure out who even died! And your only clues are the interviews of the moms judging the other moms in the school! I had a lot of fun writing guesses in the margins as I was reading and they were all wrong which means that this book had excellent foreshadowing and writing that kept me on my toes.
My favorite character was Madeline. Her tirade about being forty and getting outraged at imaginary problems was hilarious. Also, I never, never get upset about problems I’ve invented in my head. Never. Mostly.
I don’t know why, but I loved reading about Madeline’s unfounded resentment for her ex-husband’s wife, Bonnie. It was just so funny and blunt.
“When Bonnie hears I’ve hurt my ankle, she’ll bring me a meal. She just loves any excuse to bring me a home-cooked meal. Probably because Nathan told her I’m a terrible cook, so she wants to make a point. Although the worst thing about Bonnie is that she’s probably not actually making a point. She’s just freakishly nice. I’d love to throw her meals straight in the bin, but they’re too damned delicious. My husband and children would kill me.”
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 28
I feel a little like that when I get mad at my husband and he’s nice to me. My husband is also freakishly nice. Now what am I supposed to do!? The nice card is so not fair sometimes.
I can relate to this a little too much.
The angrier Madeline got, the more freakishly calm Ed became, until he reached a point where he sounded like a hostage negotiator dealing with a lunatic and a ticking bomb. It was infuriating.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 212
One of the deeper issues that Big Little Lies explored was how important a woman’s looks are in our society and the consequences of that.
A glittery girl. […] All her life Jane had watched girls like that with scientific interest. Maybe a little awe. Maybe a little envy. They weren’t necessarily the prettiest, but they decorated themselves so affectionately, like Christmas trees, with dangling earrings, jangling bangles and delicate, pointless scarves.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 14
Why are looks so important to women? Why do even women value other women based on their looks? Do we miss things (like the abuse of one of the women who happened to be very beautiful) because everything looks pretty on the outside? It’s not like I’ve never asked myself these questions before, but I always find myself thinking more deeply about them in the context of a story. Jane, one of the main characters, has this thought when she meets someone new:
Although, what did that say? If the woman had been a toothless, warty-nosed crone she would have continued to feel resentful? The injustice of it. The cruelty of it. She was going to be nicer to this woman because she liked her freckles.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 16
I found this next quote so moving and thought provoking. It’s about how in our society women can easily feel that the most valuable thing a woman can be is attractive to a man. I liked this honest look at the issue of women’s looks that Liane Moriarty masterfully mixed with a little humor.
“You’re beautiful,” she began.
“No!” said Jane angrily. “I’m not! And that’s OK that I’m not. We’re not all beautiful, just like we’re not all musical, and that’s fine. And don’t give me that inner beauty shining through crap either.”
Madeline, who had been about to give her that inner beauty shining through crap, closed her mouth.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 197
Madeline talks about how Jane’s mother’s attitude about beauty shaped Jane a little, then society and media shaped her attitude a little more, and then one hateful comment finished the job that everyone had been doing little by little. They all added up together to warp her attitude about food and wrongfully plant the idea that skinny means beauty and beauty is what matters most to a woman.
There were some lovely thoughts on parenting. This book showed so well that while genetics play a role in your kids, how you raise them matters so much more. As I’m watching my kids grow up, I relate to this quote that puts childhood so poignantly.
Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you. New personality traits could appear overnight.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 63
I never realized until reading this book that I judged people who stayed in abusive relationships. I developed so much empathy for people who are victims of abuse after reading this. This quote shows the mindset of the woman who was abused. The idea that she somehow deserves abuse. I love that the message of this book was that you don’t deserve it. No matter what.
A little violence was a bargain price for a life that would otherwise be just too sickeningly, lavishly, moonlit perfect.
So then what the hell was she doing here, secretly planning her escape route like a prisoner?
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 245
I think this all the time. There has to be a balance between empathy and the ability to function in your real life.
… there was real pain in the world, right this very moment people were suffering unimaginable atrocities and you couldn’t close your heart completely, but you couldn’t leave it wide open either, because otherwise how could you possibly live your life, when through pure, random luck you got to live in paradise? You had to register the existence of evil, do the little that you could, and then close your mind and think about new shoes.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 353
The word silly is used a lot throughout the story to downplay the hurt and concerns of women. The saddest example is when the little girl who was getting hurt during the school year was afraid to say who it really was. But when the little girl later insisted on not inviting a certain boy to her party, the mom dismissed it as her daughter just being silly. It turned out that this certain boy was the one that was hurting her. We sometimes trivialize violence and pain when it happens to girls and even women. Every time I saw the word silly, I realized how very sadly common it is to do that to women. To trivialize the pain they are going through.
One of the most fascinating things about this book was all the lies and secrets. All of the characters tell white lies and most of the characters have big lies or secrets. It seemed like the more secret they kept something, the more power it had over their life.
There’s something about this scene that just gets to me. Celeste is naturally beautiful. I think this scene shows how even women tend to over-value how important our appearances are.
“Oh, Celeste,” she’d moaned. “I just can’t handle you today. Not when I’m feeling like shit and you waltz in here looking like . . . you know, like that.” She waved her hand at Celeste’s face, as if at something disgusting.
The girls around them had exploded with joyous laughter, as if something hilarious and subversive had finally been said out loud. They laughed and laughed, and Celeste had smiled stiffly, idiotically, because how could you possible respond to that? It felt like a slap, but she had to respond like it was a compliment.
-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 165-166
The passive aggressive way the women told Celeste that she was too pretty and it made them feel bad made Celeste respond as if it was a compliment when it wasn’t. Is there something about passive aggressiveness that makes the only polite response a lie? I try to imagine Celeste responding with the truth and I couldn’t figure out a way in which it didn’t end badly for her.
What white lies do you tell the most?
As a naturally honest and blunt person, I tell white lies all the time. I’m actually pretty good at. It’s not something I’m proud of. I wish that I could be honest all the time, but people’s feelings matter to me and it’s just not always possible. I tell lies most of the time to avoid minor tiffs and to spare people’s feelings. For the most part, I think that’s a good thing. I have things to do and telling someone that no you don’t like deviled eggs but they keep insisting you take them even though you’ve pointed out they could get ruined in the heat (Just turn on the AC!) or that someone else might like them more (Nonsense! Take them!) it’s sometimes just easier to take the deviled eggs. And then throw them at someone’s car. And when they ask if you liked them, you lie of course. Yes they were delicious!! Because who wants to argue some more about deviled eggs?
To reduce how many white lies I tell (because yes it does make me feel guilty), I found that the best thing to do is just say no. That’s it. No explanation or excuse. Neighbor: Take the deviled eggs! Me: No. Neighbor: Ok… (I guess you could add in a polite “But thanks anyway” to reduce the awkwardness but honestly I don’t mind awkwardness).
Content Rating: High, for strong language and a rape scene that was mildly graphic.
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