Big Little Lies is a completely devastating murder mystery that deals with domestic abuse, rape and (of course) murder. I’m going to try and not spoil anything else. I don’t think the book is dependent on its twists to be readable, but the way the twists unfold is delightful to watch. If you haven’t read this book yet, go out and read it. Also, I watched the HBO show right after I finished the book, because the obsession is real, and it’s nowhere near as powerful. It’s good, but the book is honestly better.
The book starts just after the plot climax and then jumps back in time to explore how the characters get to that explosive moment. Like any murder mystery, the who and why are explained as the story progresses, with the added bonus of discovering who the victim is. There are little interlude snippets of police interviews worked into the bulk of the plot. Moriarty handles these writing tricks with a deftness, and uses them to expound on her theme of image vs reality. There are some especially poignant moments, that Moriarty uses to great effect. For example, during one of the police interview interludes the character talks about how maybe two women weren’t quite perfect friends because she heard one woman say to the other, “I’m sorry. I’m so so so sorry.” Except at this point in the book the reader has enough information to realize that apology is not because character A did something to character B, but because of something that happened in character B’s life. It’s a great little example of how expectations your perception, and how the image presented isn’t always the reality.
So, how to describe the plot without giving too much away. Well, Jane moves to a beachside community with her five-year-old son and enrolls him in the local kindergarten. She befriends Madeline and Celeste, who each have problems of their own. Jane’s son is accused of bullying another child on orientation, and battle lines are drawn as the various kindergarten mothers take sides. Secrets are reveled and everything explodes on the school fundraising trivia night.
It’s not perfect, and I have some quibbles but they’re minor. I laughed, I cried, my jaw dropped in shock, it’s good.