Rated Reads

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

Rated: High

Madeline is a middle-class divorced and remarried mother of three who relishes venting her righteous anger. Celeste is a stunningly beautiful mother of twin boys who is also stunningly wealthy and (seemingly) in the perfect marriage. Jane is very young to be the single mother of a five-year-old boy, and she’s new to the area of Pirriwee Beach, Australia. All three have children who are starting kindergarten at the public school, and over the course of six months, their lives will intertwine and their secrets contribute to a simmering brew combining over-the-top helicopter parents, ex-spouses, and gossip that boils over to an inevitable explosion.

I started out reading this as almost a send-up of how bad parents (particularly moms) can be in a small community. The characters here get their knickers in a twist over all kinds of ridiculous pseudo-issues with their small kids at school and proceed to go nuclear. But then, unexpectedly, I found myself really caring about the three main characters. Each is dealing with big personal issues, some a little more “typical” than others, and those issues get compounded. I wanted to see things get better for them, even after I thought at the beginning they were just going to be caricatures.

The tension of the story with all its carefully pieced elements ratchets up at an increasing pace until right at the end, where the reader can see how horrifyingly all the issues will meld and mix and blend in a terrible disaster. Even as truly tragic events unfold or are related from the past, the reader cares about the characters who must deal with them and is simultaneously grimly amused by the over-the-top things minor characters say and do. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it utterly satisfying. Big Little Lies is pitch-perfect as a send-up and as a mystery. Only drawback? Language.

Rated: High, for 15 to 20 uses of strong language, some other uses of milder language, and some references to violence, abuse and rape. There are references to sex but hardly any detail.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Big Little Lies
  • by Liane Moriarty
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: