Saturday, February 28, 2015

Big Little Lies

Title:  Big Little Lies
Author:  Liane Moriarty
Publication Information:  G.P. Putnam's sons, Penguin Group, Penguin Random House. 2014. 460 pages.
ISBN:  0399167064 / 978-0399167065

Book Source:  I read the book based on the description.

Opening Sentence:  "'That doesn't sound like a school trivia night,' said Mrs. Patty Ponder to Marie Antoinette."

Favorite Quote:  "Parents do tend to judge each other. I don't know why. Maybe because none of us really know what we're doing? And I guess that can sometimes lead to conflict. Just not normally on this sort of scale."

Big Little Lies starts off with the revelation that a death has occurred. The reader knows where and when. But not who, how, and why? It takes the rest of the over 450 pages of this book to reveal that.

Even before the opening line of the book, there are hints of the topics inside. The epigraph of the book includes a school yard chant, "You hit me, you hit me, now you have to kiss me" and the Perriwee Public School statement against bullying.

Perriwee Public School is an elementary school. The book centers around the students and parents of its incoming kindergarten class. Madeleine is mother of three and still trying to work through the issues of her divorce, her teenage daughter, and the fact that her ex-husband and his new family are part of the same kindergarten class. Celeste is breathtakingly beautiful. She and her husband Perry are seemingly the ultimate power couple and parents to twin boys. Jane is new to town and single mother to Ziggy. Bonnie is married to Madeleine's ex-husband. Renata is the busy executive, making time for her daughter's school. And so on through the entire class.

From the bombshell beginning of a murder investigation, the book goes back to the beginning of the school year and to kindergarten orientation. Initially, the characters seem shallow and one-sided. Beautiful people in a beautiful place with petty politics and grievances. Jane is the outsider. Then, as the story develops, the cracks in the beauty start to appear, and the serious issues emerge - insecurities, infidelity, violence against women, domestic abuse.

The story covers primarily a period of about six months. It begins with orientation and builds to the night of the murder. It keeps you guessing as to the victim, the perpetrator, and the relationship that leads to this death.

The story is told as a third-person narrative, but almost each chapter has snippets from different people present at the scene. Initially, I tried to keep track of the people, but then decided what was said was more important than who said it. In some ways, it reminds of the typical way gossip travels through a small community like a school - from person to person to person - the original facts getting turned with every transmission.

I appreciate the story for the serious issues it raises - issues that should be discussed and resolved in our society such that they never happen again. My biggest concern with the book is its length. The individual chapters are short, averaging only about 5-6 pages in length (a total of 84 chapter in 460 pages). Each chapter has a similar structure - a little piece of the story and a few snippets of commentary and gossip. The choppy structure seems to add to the length of the book, the content gets a bit repetitive after a while. The beginning sections of the book set up the characters and the plot. The ending specifically highlights the serious issues being addressed and resolves the mystery. The center sections just seem long.

So, a higher rating for the issues addressed, but a lower rating for how long it takes to get to the point. I would have liked it much better had it been about half the length.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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