Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

At the beginning of Big Little Lies, we learn that all hell broke loose at a Pirriwee Primary School fund-raiser (Trivia Night, with attendees costumed as Elvis or Audrey Hepburn) and someone was killed--but we don't know who, how, or why. From that starting point, Moriarty goes back six months to tell how the school's helicopter parents got to the point of murder at a fundraiser. Most of the story is told from the perspective of three kindergarten moms who are friends--Madeline, the bitchy ring-leader of the trio who despises the "Blonde Bobs," the gifted-and-talented parents, and the power mothers, all of whom make her feel inadequate; Celeste, who is so beautiful and rich that everyone assumes she is completely happy; and Jane, the younger single mom whose son is immediately singled-out by one of the power mothers as a bully. Of course, each of the three has problems not immediately visible to their friends (as do the rival mothers); these problems range from abusive and unfaithful husbands to conflict with a teenage daughter and self-esteem so damaged as to be crippling.

Interspersed with the narrative from these three women's perspectives are snippets of quotes from police statements taken after the disastrous Trivia Night, along with comments from the officer in charge of the case. The "witnesses" provide such disparate stories of what happened not only that evening but in the preceding months that the thinly veiled frustration on the part of the officer is fully justifiable--but humorous as well.

Liane Moriarty is an excellent satirist, skewering modern parents in a way that is especially enjoyable for a mother from an early generation like myself. At the same time, she deals with the serious issues of bullying violence against women without being at all preachy and engages the reader in a "mystery" that is unlike more traditional who-dun-its. While I had guessed a couple of the "surprises" that came at the end of the book, other developments were unexpected, which made for a satisfying ending. Recommended.

Favorite passage:
It had never crossed her mind that sending your child to school would be like going back to school yourself.

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