One of the best things about Big Little Lies is the characters. Among the three women, there is something to attract all readers. Reserved and glamorous, young and shy, and confident and chaotic, they are as unalike as possible. Madeline is an absolute riot in her take-no-prisoners attitude and unashamed adoration of all things girly. She is not afraid to call a spade a spade and has a refreshing candor that provides many moments of entertainment. Celeste is the quiet beauty. With her gorgeous husband, unlimited wealth, and all of the trappings that come with it, one might envy her. However, beneath that beautiful exterior is a secret that chills one to the bone. Jane is the balance between the two. She also has her secrets that prevent her from being quite as boisterous and open as Madeline, but neither is she as reserved as Celeste. She is very young but in many ways wiser than either of the other two women.
In spite of, or maybe even because of these differences, their friendship works well together. In fact, their friendship does not just work well together; it practically leaps off the page. They have their differences and may clash because of those differences once in a while, but there is a fierce loyalty among the three that is beautiful to behold. Theirs is the type of friendship some readers may envy, as it is a clear reminder that friends truly help make the world a better place.
Another aspect of Big Little Lies is the politics of motherhood, something Ms. Moriarty wickedly skewers. The stay-at-home mothers versus the career mothers, the single ones versus the married ones, wealthy versus not wealthy – it all becomes a race to see which mother can be the “best”. This race runs the gamut from protesting the type of treats brought into the classroom for celebrations to dictating how a teacher runs her class. The derisive image of modern-day motherhood is a spot-on statement on the misplaced good intentions of young mothers everywhere.
In spite of the hilarious satire and Madeline’s laugh-out-loud inability to think before she speaks, Big Little Lies is not all fun and games. The secrets Jane and Celeste hide from others are very grim. Madeline’s struggles to accept the close proximity of her ex-husband are equally sobering in spite of the frivolity with which she masks her pain. Similarly, the bullying debate among the mothers at the school may appear extreme but do bring to light this serious topic. Ms. Moriarty deftly combines the serious with the frivolous to make her story enjoyable without losing the impact of her key messages.
Big Little Lies is thoroughly fun and often quite silly. However, it can also be an uncomfortable read. Ms. Moriarty spares no one in her unflinching portrayal of motherhood, divorce, and school politics in the twenty-first century. Even though the story occurs in Australia, her characters and her themes cross all borders, physical and otherwise. Readers will embrace her vibrant characters while at the same timereflect on their own parenting experiences and observations. Big Little Lies is a stunning addition to Ms. Moriarty’s already robust list of works.