This month the Birchbox book club featured the book Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. They once again gave away copies on Twitter and I was lucky enough to win one. I was really excited when it came in the mail and I realized they had sent a big, lovely hardcover copy of the book. I was expecting a paperback, thanks Birchbox! This is a thick book… like, hit-a-purse-snatcher-with sized book and, silly as it may be to say so, I thought it had a pretty cover and will look nice on my bookshelf.
When I first entered to win a copy of this book, I had no idea what it was about other than it was a mystery. Once I received it, I decided to jump right in without reading the back cover or any of the excerpts inside the cover. In the end I was glad that I did it that way, because I had literally no expectations for the book and was pleasantly surprised. I won’t give away any spoilers in this review, but if you’d like to read it without knowing anything about the story, I suggest you leave this post now!
The book opens with an elderly woman having a conversation with her cat. I was definitely not expecting that, but it didn’t bother me at all. As it turns out, this doesn’t have much to do with the actual plot. It’s a bit like passing a stationary store with a picture of an adorable puppy on the window, but inside there may or may not be any stationary with puppies, it just lures you in. Is that the worst simile ever? Probably so. My point is, the lady and her cat set the scene and draw you into what is happening, but have very little to do with the story itself. She does come up later a few times, but only as a background character.
This story is a really unusually written mystery. It starts off with the crime, yet you’re not initially sure what the crime is. Suddenly, the story moves forward and you are reading comments from various people who are being interviewed by the police. (These are very funny and go quite off track of the incident, giving you some insight into those characters personalities). After a few lines of those, the story backtracks completely to several months before the night in question, to introduce each main character and set the stage leading up to Trivia Night.
That’s right, I said Trivia Night, and that is where the mystery takes place. You see, this story is about a group of suburban mothers (and fathers) and is centered around the school their children attend. It starts off as kindergarten is about to begin, and you are introduced to several main characters and their kids. As the story progresses, the chapters move from one character to another, describing their lives and wraps up most of the chapters by jumping back to the interviews. Moving through the story, you get closer and closer to the night of the schools Trivia event for the parents, where the incident took place. Instead of focusing on ‘who did it’, you’re also not sure exactly what happened, or who the victim was. It really adds alot of interest to the story in my opinion because you aren’t automatically suspicious of any character, since you’re not even sure what happened. I hope that I’m not being too cryptic in my description, but I really don’t want to give anything away because I think the story does such a great job at unfolding naturally.
The characters in this story are extremely well written. They are likeable, well rounded, and very deep. Even the children in the story come off as believable characters and their parts are often funny. “Oh, calamity!” is a phrase that one little girl is fond of using, thus causing other characters to use it as well. You might even find yourself using it once you’ve finished. This book is full of wit and charm, without sacrificing any of the plot and storytelling.
Big Little Lies mainly focuses on three women and their friendship, and the paths their lives take as they raise small children in a charming beach side community. One woman is stunningly beautiful, wealthy, happily married and yet frazzled with her two young twins. Another is facing the challenge of getting her daughter through kindergarten while dealing with the fact that her ex husband and his new wife also have a child in the same class (and that the new wife is stepmother to her older daughter). The third woman is a young mother who has just moved to town with her son, and though she tries to fit in she finds herself on the outside almost immediately. The dynamics of the relationships of these three unlikely friends are truly well written.
While this story takes place in a small, close knit town, there is a very large cast of characters. It starts out with the three main women, but also includes husbands, children, many other parents, teachers, friends, and extended family members. Yet with all of that going on, it’s not that difficult to keep track of and you feel like each character is necessary to the story in their own way. Even characters who appear briefly seem to have distinct personality and purpose to move the story along or help describe the background of a main character. It just all ties together really well.
I raced through this entire book in three days, I couldn’t put it down. I can definitely see why it was chosen for the book club book. It does have some language and some darker moments, but there isn’t anything too graphic. (It’s an adult book for sure, with some disturbing subject matter, but all of the content is relevant to the story and the emotions of the characters). The disturbing scenes are also rather brief, and don’t overly bring done the tone of the book. It still manages to have alot of lighthearted moments, while letting you feel sympathetic to what the characters go through. What I mean is, it’s a good balance.
Even at the end of this book, when you’re finding out who the victim is and all of the plot twists are coming together, there are still genuinely surprising moments. I doubt anyone would be able to guess how this one ends, although you might guess some of the more minor points as you get to know the characters better. I felt like the story wrapped up pretty well without leaving anything hanging. I would definitely read this a second time.
This was a really good book and I’ll definitely be checking out some of the other books by Liane Moriarty. Thanks again to the Birchbox book club!