Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Big Little Lies:" Add it to the list of books you can't put down

Last December I read Liane Moriarty's book "The Husband's Secret."  Although it was highly recommended and I flew through it, I wasn't all that enthralled with it and discounted it as chick lit with a bit of a sinister edge.  I loved the pop culture references thrown in and the converging of the different characters. Moriarty also did a great job of incorporating the themes that we never truly know anyone, that we all have secrets to keep, and we remain blind to truths that we don't want to know about those that we love.

Moriarty's 6th novel, "Big Little Lies" reads much like "The Husband's Secret," but something about it made me think more, read faster and ultimately feel more satisfied at the end.  It could be that I liked the characters better, or possibly that Moriarty set up the mystery even better in this book. The mystery revolves around suburban moms in an idyllic Australian beach community called Pirriwee Penisula who all have children in the same school.  From the very first chapter, the reader knows that something terrible happened on Trivia Night at the school and that it involves one of the main characters.  But who? Could it be the outspoken and stiletto heel wearing, Madeline who on her 40th birthday twists her ankle only to be rescued by the new mom in town? Could it be the new, young, single mom in town, Jane, whose mousy exterior hides her devastating secrets about her son, Ziggy's real father? Could it possibly involve the devastatingly beautiful and wealthy Celeste who appears to have the perfect husband and perfect life? Maybe it's Bonnie, the peace loving yoga instructor who is the new wife of Madeline's ex-husband, Nathan (who just happened to walk out on Madeline and their 14 month old daughter).

As the seemingly mundane situations that arise in normal life - a bully in the classroom, invitations to a birthday party, a book club, and a school fundraising function - become way more twisted and sinister, the truths about the character's lives and hearts tumble out with tragic consequences.

I had to know what happened in the gossipy town that turned ugly (and bloody) amidst the parents who dressed up as Audrey Hepburn and Elvis to attend an annual trivia night.  Without food to sop up their copious amounts of alcohol, tempers flared and situations that may have seemed trivial (on trivia night . . . get it?) turned deadly.

Would guys like this book? No.  Is it Chick Lit? Yes, but it's Chick Lit with a backbone.  It isn't just as the cover suggests, an exploding, neon colored lollipop, and it's worth reading and becoming entrenched in until the very last page (honestly, if you are looking for a book that you won't put down until you get to the end, read it).  Liane Moriarty knows how to capture her readers and keep them guessing until the very last page and do so without over-sentimentalizing. She also masters the art of throwing in subtle human truths (without hitting the reader over the head with them) in the midst of the soap opera scene of suburban moms squabbling.  That's a gift.

If you are looking for books that you can't put down to either read during the cold, long winter, or to give as gifts (or maybe, if you are lucky enough, to take on a winter vacation), here are some of my other recommendations:

YA Literature:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
Gone Feral by Novella Carpenter (I'm reading this right now, and I can't put it down.  It was actually hard for me to take a break to write this blog post!)
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Books that have romance and substance:
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Me Before You by  Jojo Moyes
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
The Rosie Project by Graeme Stimison

Happy Reading this winter, everyone!  If you have a book suggestion for me (something I won't be able to put down), I'd love it!

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