Several school parents meet up for Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public School. Readers are told right off the bat that a murder takes place at the event and the book begins by taking us back, one year earlier, to tell us about the key players and set the stage for that infamous night. In between the background leading up to the crime, Ms. Moriarty gives us snippets of police interviews, where parents give us the classic “always knew it”, “she seemed like a bad lot”, and “if only it weren’t for” routines.
On the journey we meet:
-Madeline, the 40 year old who uses her appearance and prickly attitude to hide her hang ups about her modest income, her ex-husband’s seemingly perfect new wife, and the fact that her daughter from her first marriage prefers to live with that new stepmother over her.
-Jane, the 24 year old single mother of Ziggy who confesses that she endured sexual assault the night her son was conceived. Because of this shadow, she constantly watches her son for any sign of inherited violent tendencies.
-Celeste, the beautiful wife of a hedge fund manager and mom to twin boys who is experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of her outwardly perfect husband. Celeste feels guilty when she weighs the thought of leaving her abusive husband against the luxurious lifestyle his income provides. She crafts every excuse possible and simply cannot wrap her head around how women can still be abused, even those living the same privileged existence she enjoys.
When a misguided, unsubstantiated accusation of bullying in the kindergarten class gains momentum, many are prepared to believe the worst. It’s like watching a train wreck on super slow motion, and you can’t stop the events that you know will unfold. Moriarty excels at “mom gossip” – the outlandish, unfounded opinions and conclusions people adopt simply because they feel the need to look like top notch parents. This is something like taking the temperature on FB during the recent presidential election, where people were short on facts, long on opinion and sanctimony, and bereft of common sense. And then add parenthood into that mix and well…it makes for a deliciously dramatic plot.
Ms. Moriarty is a Jane Austen for the 21st century. She shines a spot light on the eccentricities of middle class society in an honest but witty way just as Ms. Austen did hundreds of years ago. This one is like “Desperate Housewives” meets your local PTO: how being a parent in today’s pressure cooker environment can bring out the very worst in people who cling to their (often flawed) beliefs in the name of good parenting.
Big lies, little lies – with Liane Moriarty’s tale, it all depends on the perspective. This one is a definite guilty pleasure so go enjoy.
**”Big Little Lies” is currently a TV series (starting March 2017) on HBO and stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley.**
Ms. Moriarty’s 2015 book “The Husband’s Secret” is reviewed here.
Amazon link is here.