Someone has tragically died at the school trivia night. But what actually happened? Who died? And more importantly, who did it?
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty explores what exactly happens behind the closed doors in the pristine beach town in beautiful Australia. When the teachers aren’t looking, when the neighbors are asleep, when the curtains are closed. Everyone has the story they tell, and the story they actually live.
The characters all have their own accounts of what happened on trivia night. While readers are introduced to the tragic night in the first chapter, we’re taken back six months prior to when it all started. The chapters are told by the perspective of the different women involved, and in between we get snippets of the detective interviews where the other parents tell their gossipy accounts of their version of the story, adding an extra level of suspense until we learn more.
First, there’s Madeline Mackenzie’s story. Described as a “glittery girl” by another character in the book, Madeline seems to have it all. Three children. A part time job she loves. But still, she “was one of those slightly dangerous people who jumped right in defending their friends and stirred up far bigger waves than the first tiny ripple.” She has a really big heart and loves her friends. But what you may not know? Her first husband left her and their daughter and took zero interest in their lives – until he and his new, seemingly wonderful, wife move back to town and their daughter starts school with Madeline’s.
Then there’s Jane’s story. We’re introduced to Jane Chapman after she moves to town for a fresh start with her son Ziggy. The young mom struggles to make ends meet, but is out on her own and focused on being the best mom for her son. That is until orientation day of the first grade, where Ziggy is accused of bullying and they are labeled as outcasts. Could Ziggy be a bully?
Madeline’s best friend lives the annoyingly perfect life. The outrageously beautiful Celeste has rambunctious twin sons and a wonderful husband who adores her and their family. After trying so hard for a baby, she finally had her perfect little family. Celeste is always a little distracted, but with the house full of boys it could be expected. With one look at her Facebook profile, you’d be instantly jealous. But if you really knew the truth, you wouldn’t be the least bit envious.
These women quickly form a trio and a true friendship. While battling the other moms at school, each little thing builds up to the next. The bullying on orientation day. Not inviting certain kids to a birthday party. Losing the classroom’s precious stuffed animal. It all leads up to that night. Trivia night. What really happened? Who knows the real story?
The book is masterfully crafted around learning the truth behind the women’s lives and exposing the events that ultimately lead to an untimely death. The characters, though their stories are different, are instantly relatable. And through the gossipy nature of how the story is told, you’re constantly wondering who is killed at trivia night. Bubbly Madeline? Plain Jane Chapman? Beautiful Celeste?
This book is murder-mystery meets chick-lit. While it reads easy and flows naturally, the book covers serious themes. For example, bullying and violence in all its forms – from the first grade playground and throughout adult life. It also highlights the vast differences in family structures, from the differences in Madeline, Celeste, and Jane’s families and extending into the other families at school. Most notably the theme of the story shows how these “little lies” we often tell, to ourselves and to others, can truly have the biggest impact.
It’s insanely satisfying and the ending is well worth the suspense. If you aren’t convinced yet, keep in mind this book was turned into an extremely successful HBO mini-series produced by Reese Witherspoon after she herself loved the book.
What did you think of the book? Have you seen the show? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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