Judge a book by its cover? Guilty. I was immediately drawn to the splintering lollypop on the cover of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies. This was my first novel by Moriarty, but the catchy cover coupled with the acclaim that her novel has been receiving, pushed this book to the front of my must-read pile.
PLOT - Set in a posh beach community in Australia, Big Little Lies centers around a murder that happens during an elementary school fundraiser. Tensions ran high at the adult-only trivia fundraiser and although there were many witnesses, nobody can seem to agree on what occurred.
The story is told in flashbacks to the months leading up to the event, focusing on several moms whose children are in the same kindergarten class. There is the gorgeous and wealthy, Celeste, who hides the marks of spousal abuse. Madeline, who has a child from a new marriage in the same class as her ex-husband's child from his second marriage. Jane is new to town and a single mom who is much younger than the other moms.
The story kicks off during the kindergarten orientation, when Jane's son is accused of physically abusing another child during playtime. Even though there is no proof of the crime and the kids refuse to talk, it creates a divide between the parents who believe in the innocence of Jane's son and those who want him expelled.
LIKE - Immediately, the tone of the story drew me in. It was reminiscent of one of my favorite television comedies, Desperate Housewives. In addition to having a similar wit, it also compares to Desperate Housewives with its dark and heavy content. It initially caught me by making me laugh, but very quickly the story turns serious. I liked that I never quite sussed where Moriarty was heading. Although you know a murder will occur at the very start of the story, I never guessed who died or how. It was a satisfying twist at the end. I liked all of the main characters and found the story to be a page turner. The fact that a murder is coming is always looming, but it takes a back seat to the individual issues that each of the women face.
DISLIKE - There really isn't a lot to criticize. I kept reading and thinking that this is the type of story that I someday hope to write, especially with regard to the humor and tone. There were a few times towards the end of the story where the pacing slowed a bit. I'm also not sure about the last chapter, which seemed a little like a Lifetime for Women movie. It didn't need the "smack me over the head" poignant summary at the end. I got the message loud and clear early on and it would have been more impactful without that last chapter.
RECOMMEND - Absolutely! I'm looking forward to the movie adaptation and I'm definitely going to read more novels by Moriarty. I'd recommend this book to anyone, although it probably has a wider appeal for women. In particular, the school politics and cattiness among the moms would probably make this a fun read for parents with young children. Also, this is an empowering story for people who have been victims of abuse.