Reviewed by Christy H.
Madeline and Celeste are close friends who also happen to have children. Celeste’s twin boys and Madeline’s youngest daughter are all starting kindergarten together soon. When Madeline rolls her ankle on the way to orientation day and receives help from recent transplant and young mom Jane, Madeline welcomes the reserved woman into their fold. Then things get crazy.
On that same orientation day, Jane’s son, who is also starting kindergarten, is accused of bullying which causes tension between her and the other moms – most of whom are already on their guard against this single newcomer who is still in her early twenties. This is merely a catalyst for an escalating series of events that will eventually end in a murder.
Big Little Lies is ostensibly a murder mystery but it’s also about the resilient friendships between women, the mind boggling politics of dealing with other parents, and a splash of classism thrown in. Madeline is sort of the de facto leader of her trio. She’s funny, quick to anger, and intensely loyal. She also loves confrontation especially if it involves a snooty mom. Celeste is insanely rich, gorgeous, and quite aloof, although not unfriendly. Jane is shy and uncertain at times but loves her son and her new friends. However, she’s still not sure about the rest of the school parents.
I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the silliness of some of the arguments, and Madeline’s feistiness. (She was my favorite character). I loved the friendship between the women, and how fiercely Madeline wanted to protect them. However, some of the subplots veer off into the bizarre. Particularly the way Madeline’s teenage daughter decides to raise awareness for human trafficking – a subplot, I might add, that doesn’t really go anywhere or add anything. For all the novel’s soapy fun, it does delve into some dark subject matter including domestic violence and dubious sexual consent. Just a warning for readers who may be sensitive to those topics.
Perhaps the ending ties everything up in a pretty, too tight bow but sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes you want horrible people to get what’s coming to them (no matter how absurdly) and for everyone to live sort of-happily ever after. HBO recently announced a mini-series based on this book with Reese Witherspoon as Madeline and Nicole Kidman as Celeste (great choices, in my opinion). While the previews make it look especially dark I hope it retains some of the novel’s irreverence. I look forward to trying out other works by Liane Moriarty as well as watching the mini-series.