The Big Lie about Big Little Lies
The first thing that caught my attention was The Mom. That Mom. We all know her. She would never admit that her mean-girl daughter ever did anything wrong, but sometimes she pretended she did only to feign (for the rest of us) that some sort of discipline was taking place in their home, which we were all absolutely certain it wasn’t. She had that same child tested for gifted programs after she used one fancy word properly one time at dinner. She signed the girl up for piano lessons and ballet and French and soccer, then whined about the child’s teachers giving her too much homework. Yet she intentionally put her in the best classes at the best school with all the best teachers, teachers who were (dare we say) kinda tough and didn’t scale grades. And That Mom drove all the rest of us insane when she pretended to be annoyed while she whined and rolled her eyes at how demanding her child’s friends’ six-birthday-parties-this-month! were going to be on their already-busy lives.
Am I talking about this book or I am I talking about my own life?
The big lie about the book Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty occurred to me as I read about those four Australian women and their bratty, elitist children, the ones in an expensive private school on the other side of the world. These women were suitably matched with complicated but well-dressed husbands who did everything right, in public. Then I realized that some of the book’s outlandish themes are not exclusively about rich people and their first-world problems. They are, in fact, pretty universal to all of us… and our first-world problems.
In the book, Extraordinarily Rich Woman Celeste had the daylights beat out of her on regular basis by her sadistic husband. She covered her bruises with Chanel coats and Hermes scarves, and no one ever suspected a thing. How do we know that doesn’t happen in our own Small Town, USA to other pillars of the community? Are we paying enough attention? What’s underneath those sweatshirts and hoodies people are wearing to Publix to buy groceries? What are people most ashamed of? What dark secrets do people hide inside the privacy of their kitchens, hmm? I know a few.
The Big City Transplant Mom Jane didn’t fit in with the other women who had been in that little seaside town their whole lives, and it was just because she was poor and mysterious, but trust me when I say that I am all too familiar with the idea that some people, no matter how long they’ve lived there or how much money they have, quite simply do not fit in well in certain communities, and they’re reminded of it constantly. Exclusion from friend groups, non-invites to weddings and baby showers, and other forms of intentional public shunning are not unique to the Amish, as it turns out.
The main character Madeline, Mrs. Warrior for Righteousness, was a (somewhat self-indulged) fighter for the downtrodden (Big City Transplant Mom) and a defender of the weak (the unpopular kids at her popular kid’s school), but sometimes she was honestly just arrogant, selfish, and controlling, and she hid behind her rogue playdates advertised as anti-exclusion get-togethers for the perimeter kids. Once a mean girl, she grew up to be a mean woman, and yes, I recognize her kind. Women like that are famous for using their volunteer work and their Welcome Newcomer, We Care About You! clubs to make themselves feel less guilty about how much scandal they spread around. To read that book and not start to form a connection with at least one of those women is to not be paying attention.
You might by telling yourself a big little lie, too, if you can’t admit that you might actually be like one of these people.
HBO made this book into a miniseries that I waited weeks and weeks to watch. The Big Lie came true right in my living room when I discovered that the made-for-TV version was set in California. It got uncomfortably yet deliciously real when that happened, when those women became Americans and the show made them all American-ized, like us. They went for Starbucks and cruised around in their sparkly SUVs, talking straight, unfiltered gossip about everyone else in the whole town while their children sat in all the other seats in the car and joined in like old pros!
Yes, we know those women. Those women are us.
If you want an eyebrow-raising, juicy, oh-yeah-it-kinda-happened-to-me-once read, one that makes you think, “that could sooooo be this town,” then order yourself a copy of Big Little Lies. Read it really quickly, then watch the HBO series in one sitting. You won’t want to leave the couch while you text your best friend and compare commentary, like I did. You should hurry. Since it yanked up five Emmy Awards last month, there has been talk of a 2nd season.
Order the book here: Big Little Lies