Friday, February 27, 2015

462 (2015 #19). Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

After reading Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret a few months ago, I was eager to read her new book.  Last night I couldn't put it down, and stayed up late to finish it.

The beginning was a little confusing.  An elderly woman describes the commotion at the adjacent elementary school's fundraising event, and this is followed by a number of (rather amusing) comments from seemingly random people about what started the commotion - including one from a police officer, clarifying that "this is a murder investigation."

Instant hook.

The book then goes back six months in time, moving forward to the fundraising event (the trivia night).  The chapters then move between the viewpoints of three main characters (as in The Husband's Secret).

Madeline Mackenzie has just turned forty.  She is married with two young children with her second husband, and a daughter (Abigail) by her first.  Her ex, and his new wife, have a kindergartener in the same class at the elementary school as Madeline's youngest child.  Madeline and her ex don't get along very well.  He walked out on her 14 years ago when Abigail was a baby, not supporting her in any way, but now Abigail wants to live with her dad.  I could definitely relate to this character.

Jane Chapman is a 24-year-old single mom of another kindergartner who meets Madeline at kindergarten orientation.  Celeste White is the wealthy, beautiful friend of Madeline who has twin boys in the kindergarten class.  Both Jane and Celeste have secrets.

When the three women pick up their children from the orientation later, the daughter of a full-time-career-woman mom accuses Jane's son of bullying her, and battle lines are immediately drawn.

Most chapters end or begin with more gossip from people that we learn are minor characters in the story, as well as the police officer, but there aren't a whole lot of clues there as to who died and how.  I was able to guess fairly early who the victim was (and why), but was completely surprised at the end by who was accused.

Once I got about halfway through the book (at the "one week before the trivia night" point), it was a real page-turner.  But it wasn't just because of the suspense, it was also because I really cared about the three main characters, especially feisty Madeline and her issues with her oldest daughter.  It was also heartwarming (and a little heartbreaking in one case) to see Jane and Celeste evolve.

The book tackles some serious issues (bullying, date rape, domestic violence), but it's also quite funny, with its tongue-in-cheek portraits of helicopter parents and exposition of school parent politics.

I highly recommend this book, and think it would be great for a book club discussion.  I'll definitely read more of Moriarty's books.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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