I loved this book. It was my March’s book of the month.
It is a wonderful story of a friendship of three women, their dealings with motherhood as well as having to come to terms with some dark demons from their pasts.
I saw many shame related topics in this book. Moriarty deeply understands human behaviour and portrayed honest struggles of mothers and women in general.
Before we dive into this book, let’s have a look at GoodReads’ blurb first:
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
There are three distinct voices, three unique stories, all intertwining over a mysterious murder story. I enjoyed the suspense of something just about to be revealed throughout the book. You know from the beginning that someone was murdered. But you don’t know who it was and why. That guessing game kept me engaged till the end.
The book is told from three different perspectives:
- Madeline: on the outside, a strong and forceful mother who knows what she wants. On the inside, she is coming to grips with her teenage daughter rebelliousness and deals with shame over her parenting / motherhood.
- Celeste: on the outside, she is the ‘I have it all and I am so blessed’ mother, on the inside, she is harbouring many dark secrets, which she perceives as being partially caused by her own making. Side note: shame at its most powerful form.
- Jane: another broken character. She is younger than the one two women and her voice reflects that. She also struggles with shame and does not believe that she is enough. Her story of coming to grips with her past was one of the most powerful parts of this book.
What all these perspectives shared was their dealings with shame.
Before we look at shame, here’s a quick note on the difference between shame and guilt.
Let’s say you promised your friend you water her plants for her. And somehow you forgot / didn’t get around to it and those plants died.
Guilt is you recognising you broke your promise and your behaviour was not in line with who you want to be. You feel guilty for your actions or rather the lack of them.
Shame on the other hand is when you internalise this incident and will make it mean all about you, rather than your actions. You will feel terrible for who you are and will feel like you, not your actions, failed your friend. As a consequence, you may feel like a failure.
Guilt can enable us to grow; shame on the other hand wants us to hide.
Shame loves secrecy and will try to prevent you from sharing that deep feeling of not being good enough with anyone else around you. They must not know at any cost!
What’s interesting is that women tend to get shame triggered on different topics than man. I guess it’s not surprising given how our society shapes us and what gender roles we observe whilst growing up.
Women tend to experience shame predominantly regarding their appearance and parenting.
Have you noticed when a discussion starts turning ugly, someone’s looks are usually amongst the first ammunition that gets used amongst women? Parenting comments are usually the next in line… All so readily available and capable of causing us a lot of pain.
I know when shame washes over me immediately. My face goes red, I feel like I want to hide under a blanket and not talk to anyone for days. My breathing becomes shallow, I may start sweating and all I want is to hide. I hate it. I absolutely hate that warm feeling of shame. The flip side is that via experiencing it, I must, be default, not be a psychopath… oh goody… thank goodness for the flip side eh? 😉
Anyhow, as I am growing I have learned that shame hates sharing. Opening up and being vulnerable with people I love and trust creates connections and makes me heal / cope much better.
With a risk of sounding like a broken record: Dr Brené Brown’s books on shame and vulnerability are my favourite non-fiction books. She offers many useful tips on shame resilience, is a great story teller and I am her big fan. ❤
I digressed a little. Following extract from the book deeply resonated with me:
“It wasn’t telling __ about ___. It was repeating those stupid little words he’d said.
They needed to stay secret to keep their power.
Now they were deflating, the way a jumping castle sagged and wrinkled as the air hissed out.”
All those little lies we tell ourselves to keep going, all those little secrets we harvest in the hope that no one will discover the real truth about us as we believe we may not be good enough and are desperately trying to become someone else. That’s Big Little Lies in a nutshell.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who likes character driven books. Moriarty’s characters are utterly believable.
I could not put it down, it made me cry at times but it also gave me hope.
5 out of 5 stars without a shadow of a doubt.
Possible triggers: domestic abuse and abuse in general