On my latest plundering of the local library, I picked up Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It was recommended by the library under a list called “Books that have inspired the latest TV successes”, and my first impression of it when I saw the cover was that I was about to read another cheesy and immensely entertaining chick-lit piece (the cover of that particular edition is a colorful lollipop exploding).
Yes, I was being very judgemental and only by the cover. I didn’t even give the back cover a chance. But I wanted something that would disconnect my brain from work during the commute and lunch breaks and it seemed perfect for it.
I’ll try hard not to give away any spoilers. The book was amazing. During the first few chapters it felt very much like eavesdropping on the private lives of people I could have known. The main characters are all obsessively trying to protect their own secrets, not unlike Pretty Little Liars but in a believable way, and with kindergarden children and mothers, which brought two levels of depth to the story. All the while everyone is getting involved in gossip and being interrogated during a murder investigation. The setting is a bit too familiar; it really does sound like it could be happening next door.
I want to believe Moriarty used this easy-to-read flow to make a point of the ordinary lives of her characters (honestly, even the premise is not farfetched). She builds on different archs within a very human community and behaviour that we so easily can accept as normal. Actually, the fact that so much of it is normal is what makes it terrifying. I found very few of the characters flat, and most of the interactions and dialogue felt believable (although one character kept throwing me off my suspension of disbelief because of their seemingly effortless wealth). The latter I find very difficult to achieve, especially in the limited space of a paperback and considering that the story, as far as I know, is not a series (*gasp* brave!).
At the start, I wanted to put the book’s audience in a very clear box, but by the end of it I wasn’t sure anymore: She could have been talking to victims of domestic abuse as much as victims of bullying, the bullies themselves (of all ages), and over-protective parents. She could have been talking to people without any of these issues yet unknowingly close to them. One of the things I liked the most was that I as a reader didn’t even get the chance to be judgemental of the characters, because they were doing it all by themselves in a much harsher way that I could have. Not unlike most of the people I know, myself included.
But perhaps what turned me into a fan is the reminder that we strive to present to the world only the very best of ourselves, the polished and rehearsed, sometimes at the cost of our sanity and health. We always try our hardest to fool ourselves first.
(I’m obviously not getting anything out of this post by talking about this bestseller, other than sharing my own experience of reading it. But I’ll say this: If you’re curious, just go check your local library, they might already have it in the catalog 😉 ).