Worth A Read: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

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The BUZZ: The sixth novel by internationally bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret (If you can get past the dopey titles, there is substance here). Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman have teamed up to bring it to the big screen.

The GIST: The story follows three mothers whose children attend kindergarten together in a beachside Australian town. Madeline is a straight-shooter. Her youngest child with her second husband is in the same class with her ex’s daughter, and she does little to cover the awkwardness. Celeste is the gorgeous, wealthy mother of twin boys. She seems mysteriously dazed, despite her formidable intellect. Jane is new in town, young and single, never married. Her son is accused of attacking one of the other children at the kindergarten orientation, but no one saw it happen, and it sets off a melodramatic feud among the parents. But a larger tragedy occurs at the Trivia Night fundraiser, and the reader is unsure of what exactly happened. Homicide? An accident? Someone died, at the hands of someone else, and the story bounces back and forth from the present to the past, leading up to that event with police reports and a journalist’s interviews with peripheral characters.

The WRITING: Smart and entertaining. Moriarty creates cringingly real characters. Her school mom portraits are not always flattering, but I can’t argue with their validity. Alongside the catty, shallow suburban behaviors, she includes real friendships and substantive struggles. This is no frivolous story. Humorous anecdotes and authentic dialogue make for enjoyable reading, but Moriarty has a lot to say about some heavy topics. Domestic violence is one of them, and she spotlights it within a strong and satisfying plot. There were a few surprises at the end, which made up for some of the sillier resolutions.

BUY or BORROW? Borrow. This is the third book of Moriarty’s I’ve read, and I’ll reach for the others when I want a good page-turner.

“Mothers took their mothering so seriously now. Their frantic little faces. Their busy little bottoms strutting into the school in their tight gym gear. Ponytails swinging. Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”

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