Monday, May 7, 2018

Big Truths in Big Little Lies: A Socially-Reflective Reading

It's no coincidence that the book is popular right now, as it shares stories so many women are just now starting to tell.  ♦ 
Browsing the shelves of a bookstore at the San Francisco airport, a cover that dazzled with the faces of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley caught my eye. Big Little Lies, written by Liane Moriarty, set in California, seemed fitting for an end to my coastal vacation, and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. For weeks, I was tantalized with the commercialized promotion of the new show and idle gossip at the bookstore. I was determined to finish the five-hundred-page book within the allotted time of my four-and-a-half-hour flight, even though I wasn’t exactly swayed by the seemingly superficial plot.
   A couple of chapters in, I was ready to put the book down, as the thickness of the binding was already making my hand cramp. Finally, one of the character’s backgrounds began to unravel and I made a connection. I had prepared myself for a modern housewife’s novel, complete with awkward social interactions and petty playground conversation. What I didn’t expect was an intricately woven tale of lies, deception, and murder, all gradually building up to a plot twist I was never expecting.
   The first character we meet is Jane. She’s the girl that never fit in, a young mother that was edged out because of her age and youthful ignorance. She represents all of us young readers, finding our way in the world while still dealing with our own insecurities. This story describes the trials Jane has to overcome by realizing that an “uncomfortable” situation she experienced was actually sexual assault. As she learns to rediscover her sexual identity and strength, she builds relationships that completely change her life romantically and platonically.
   This book comes out right on the cusp of the #MeToo movement, situating Jane so well in 2018 that the book reads like nonfiction. Jane, a woman in her twenties, still struggling with the definition of consent and how that informs her experiences. Her perseverance and triumph are an example to young women who can understand her struggle while continuing to find their identity. I found myself completely engrossed in her empowering characteristics.
   Another influential character, Celeste, deals with the façade of being the friend you were always ignorantly jealous of: fashionable, wealthy, enticing marriage, the perfect family. But she’s a person that represents the surface level aspects of someone’s life. Celeste’s secret is dangerous and life threatening at the hands of her husband, but yet she still manages to persevere. Her struggle to raise two children and protect herself from this situation redeems her seemingly artificial qualities. Why did I pick this book up? The suffering of women was written into these pages and transformed into a united front. While originally feeling off-put by the raw aspects of recommending a novel like this, it offers a new kind of support system through its vulnerable and relatable narratives. None of which would not have been possible without Madeline.
   Madeline’s personality tends to outshine others. Which isn’t necessarily a negative quality; she uses her energy to keep relationships together. She is the hibernating mama bear who would do anything for her friends and protect them at all costs. Slightly annoying, superficial when drinking, uses PMS as an excuse a lot, but has good intent. She’s a woman has never experienced deep trauma, but as she discovers the unhappiness of her friends, she’s willing to do anything. Maybe even murder?
   Moriarty chooses to educate instead of exploit sensitive topics such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. This novel navigates difficult scenarios like divorce, adultery, and traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, the stories Moriarty is telling within these pages are not isolated to fiction but rather are a reflection of the issues women are facing (and have been facing) in society today. These women are depicted as functioning mothers, struggling to speak out against their oppressors. Not only is Big Little Lies a rallying cry for female empowerment, it’s also spiked with the justice our society is currently lacking. This is not a read for the faint of heart or the ugly crier, because Moriarty knows how to tug at your heartstrings and show you the bigger picture.
  • About the Author
    Casey Riedel is a third-year Creative Writing Major at Miami University. An avid reader since birth, she’s probably the only student in college who has her library card memorized. For fun, she likes awkwardly dancing, ribs, and free Chipotle coupons.

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