March Book Review Club: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

How interesting can a book about a group of parents brought together when their children attend the same kindergarten class possibly be? Very, when put in the capable hands of Liane Moriarty.

Madeline is a fixture at Pirriwee Public School, having sent her 14-year-old daughter Abigail through already. Now, on her daughter’s kindergarten orientation day, she is confident that the morning will be business as usual. It is, until a stumble in the street brings her into contact with Jane, a new mom in town. Madeline introduces Jane to her friend Celeste and the three are fast friends. By the time orientation is over Jane’s son has been accused of hurting a young girl in his class, Jane defends her son when he says he didn’t do it, Madeline defends Jane from the girl’s angry mother, and battle lines have been drawn. The book takes off from there, touching on school bullying, helicopter parenting, sexual violence, domestic abuse, female friendship, self-confidence, single parenting, money, blended families, the pressure of keeping up appearances, and the dangers of gossip while racing toward a stunning murder during the school’s Trivia Night fundraiser.

Sending your children to school is not unlike going back to school yourself and Moriarty captures that with biting accuracy. The “Blonde Bobs” (known for their similar fashionable haircuts) are the Type-A moms of Pirriwee Public, running committees and signing petitions. Moriarty perfectly captures these women and the children they treat as trophies. One parent quips that a mother is lucky to have a child that is both gifted and has a mild peanut allergy, exemplifying the ways in which motherhood is often viewed as a competition and how having more of a struggle is seen as a badge of honor and a sign of dedication. There’s also a quiet rivalry brewing between the “career moms” and the “stay at homes” that any mother would probably recognize on some level. As a woman with a child in elementary school, I do not find these characterizations to hit far from their mark.

Moriarty peppers the novel with police interview tidbits from the other parents at the school that serve as a Greek chorus, commenting (usually with a delicious bit of snark) about the goings-on at the school. Their insight into the dynamics of the school community were a great insight into how much gossip and social alliances can color the reputations of others. They were often some of the funniest, laugh-out-loud moments in the book.

Mrs. Lipmann: Look, I’d rather not say anything further. We deserve to be left in peace. A parent is dead. The whole school community is grieving.

Gabrielle: Hmmm, I wouldn’t say the entire school community is grieving. That might be a stretch.

The characterization was perfect, with each woman, husband, and child having a unique voice and well-developed persona. The infuriating voice of Madeline’s teen daughter was even spot-on, projecting just the right balance of self-absorption, self-righteousness, and naiveté all at once. When you can accurately capture how infuriating and adorable a 14-year-old girl can be, you know you’ve done something right.

There were no wasted scenes and no points at which the book dragged. All of the subplots converged and were resolved at just the right time and the ending was satisfyingly believable. In the end, Big Little Lies showcased just what kind of lies we tell ourselves and other and the disastrous consequences those lies can have.

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@Barrie Summy

Flu strikes serious reader…

In a perfect world, when a woman obsessed with books is knocked into bed by a nasty flu bug she should be able to plow through piles of books between bouts of coughing and sips of tea….right?

Nope.  Not this time.  I’m struggling to make my way though a 350 page YA – The List by Patricia Forde.  It’s good.  I like it.  I don’t have the energy to hold my tiny kindle and stay awake for more than a few pages at a time.

Useless lump of germs here.  Boo hiss.

So, I’ve checked out the February BOTM choices to have my box shipped…cuz when I feel better I’ll need more books on my shelves.  On their way to me are The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker and Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson.  It’s the little things.

 

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

This is the first book I’ve read by Kathleen Rooney, and it’s the first book of 2017 to get 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 17th is the publication date for this amazing book, but if you’re a member of the Book of the Month club you may have snagged your copy early.  If you haven’t put this on your TBR – do it.  Order it, reserve it at the library – but read it!  It’s fantastic.

It’s December 31, 1984.  Lillian Boxfish is 84, getting off the phone with her only child who is letting her know that his step-mother is dying, and he’d like her to move to Maine to be closer to him and his family.  Lillian loves New York City.  She’s not going anywhere, other than to dinner at 5:30 for her New Year’s Eve tradition at a friend’s restaurant.

She walks to the restaurant, but finds she’s not hungry, and after a drink decides to take a longer walk around the city she loves, passing by various places that have played significant roles in her life.  She encounters people along the way with the best and the worst intentions.  Lillian sees them with a keen, clear eye, and levels people with her sharp wit, and with understanding that she has learned in her 80 plus years of life.

Lillian is a feminist, a career woman, a poet, a lover, friend and mother.  She looks back on her life with a clarity and sense of humor that is a joy to read.

I’m thrilled that NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Bryn Greenwood’s novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was my favorite book of 2016.  Thought provoking and original, it left me recommending it to nearly everyone.  It does have some themes of neglect and abuse, so it’s not for people who don’t enjoy books that have darker themes.

This novel starts in 1975 from Amy’s perspective. Her weird, mute cousin Wavy is visiting with her baby brother Donal. Wavy won’t talk, won’t eat and doesn’t play normally. Amy finds her fascinating – and Wavy is.

The story spans 15 years, from 1975 – 1990, while we get the story from virtually all perspectives – Wavy, Donal, Kellan, Amy, Val, Brenda, Renee…and more. The reader sees an incredibly complex story of chronic abuse, drugs, friends, family, sex, love and hate. Told by a less skilled writer, this could have been an incredibly ugly novel, but instead, the love and beauty are allowed to shine through the ugliness, and we can see that broken, illegal, legal, and love are all different based on perspective and that the best intentions can lead to both hell and to redemption.

I couldn’t put this book down – the plot is fantastic, moving along quickly, giving the reader multiple points of view on a scene when needed, or only one. It allows the most jaded reader to believe in looking beyond the surface appearance, or the words on the jacket, because the story comes from knowing both the ugly parts and the beautiful ones, and some of the mundane between.

Families have always been different from one another, but the family that is different from the heterogeneous norm has historically been so hard to justify – this novel examines the most imperfect group of people and sorts through the beautiful and ugly parts to show the reader that good can win, that families are difficult and hard to categorize but still love.

Bryn Greenwood has a fantastic, utterly readable narrative that is nearly impossible to put down. I woke at 3 am and was too tempted by her words to roll over and try and sleep, so instead I picked up my Kindle again. She is clearly and amazing talent and I look forward to more books by this author.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26114135-all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-things?from_search=true

Karli’s Best Books

The new year always inspires list making – what was the best, what are my goals, which books are coming out, what do I need to add to the new planner???

My urge to list led to the following – my favorite books of each publication year, 2005 to present!  This will give some insight to my book loves.

2016 – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26114135-all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-things

2015 – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22822858-a-little-life

2014 – The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18090147-the-enchanted

2013 – Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16130549-doctor-sleep

2012 – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13152194-tiny-beautiful-things?from_search=true

2011 – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9969571-ready-player-one?from_search=true

2010 – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6567017-will-grayson-will-grayson?ac=1&from_search=true

2009 – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3591262-cutting-for-stone?from_search=true

2008 – Duma Key by Stephen King

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/472343.Duma_Key?from_search=true

2007The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3086160-the-hour-i-first-believed?from_search=true

AND

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/136251.Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows?from_search=true

2006 – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40440.The_Thirteenth_Tale?ac=1&from_search=true

2005 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2429135.The_Girl_with_the_Dragon_Tattoo?ac=1&from_search=true