Contemporary women's fiction
"All around her was rich, vibrant color; she was the only colorless thing."
School trivia nights are usually filled with laughter and brainy fun. Most trivia nights involve fundraisers for the good of the community. But in Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, Pirriwee Public School's annual trivia event begins with death.
Flashback to six months before: in a quaint, seaside Australian town, three women—newcomer Jane, outspoken Madeline, and troubled Celeste—have become friends through their school-aged children. The women realize that they are struggling with a multitude of troubles on the home front: Jane is still trying to get used to single motherhood with her feisty kindergartner, Ziggy; Madeline is trying to balance her daughters—the elder, a defiant teenager—along with her difficult ex-husband and his New Age wife; and Celeste, although beautiful and wealthy, has a toxic and violent marriage.
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“They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Follows three mothers, each at a crossroads, and their potential involvement in a riot at a school trivia night that leaves one parent dead in what appears to be a tragic accident, but which evidence shows might have been premeditated. (catalog summary)
Big Little Lies is an upcoming American drama miniseries series created by David E. Kelley, based on the book of the same name by Liane Moriarty. The series will air on HBO. The series will consist of seven episodes, all directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. The series stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley. The series will premiere on February 19, 2017.¹ See a trailer below book suggestions.
If you like books like Big Little Lies, check out these other adult fiction titles:
Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Mary Rose MacKinnon is a successful author of young adult fiction doing a tour of duty as stay-at-home mom while her partner, Hilary, takes a turn focusing on her career. She tries valiantly to balance the (mostly) solo parenting of two young children with the relentless needs of her aging parents. But amid the hilarities of full-on domesticity arises a sense of dread. Do others notice the dents in the expensive refrigerator? How long will it take Mary Rose to realize that the car alarm that has been going off all morning is hers, and how on earth did her sharpest pair of scissors wind up in her toddler's hands? As frustrations mount, she experiences a flare-up of forgotten symptoms of a childhood illness that compel her to rethink her own upbringing and family history. Over the course of one outwardly ordinary week, Mary Rose's world threatens to unravel, and the specter of violence raises its head with dangerous implications for her and her children. With humor and unerring emotional accuracy, Adult Onset explores the pleasures and pressures of family bonds, powerful and yet so easily twisted and broken. Ann-Marie MacDonald has crafted a searing, terrifying, yet ultimately uplifting story. (catalog summary)
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
Arriving home to find his wife murdered and their toddler left alone, art history professor George Clare is targeted with suspicion by a relentless police officer, as dark community secrets are revealed over a span of decades. (catalog summary)
True confession: I loved the television shows Thirtysomething and Parenthood, and I’d classify The New Neighbor, by Leah Stewart, as a book similarly driven by well-developed characters. So, if your cup of tea is action-packed novels over touchy-feely, spill-your-guts literature, then I’d strongly advise you to move on to another blog post!
Jennifer Young has recently moved with her young son into the house next to Margaret Riley. Although the two abodes are separated by a pond, each woman can see the other from her own back porch. At the age of ninety, Margaret is not as spry as she once was, and, over the years, her prickly personality has alienated any number of potential friends. But she’s lonely and finds herself insatiably curious about her new neighbor.
Best friends since childhood, Rosie and Alex thought not even an ocean could separate them when Alex's father accepted a job in the United States, but that was until Rosie received life-altering news and decided to remain in Ireland. Rosie's dreams of college and running a glamorous hotel were dashed, while Alex's life went on as planned, attending Harvard and eventually becoming a surgeon.
Christine has amnesia. Every day she wakes up not knowing where she is or who’s sleeping next to her. As the day unfolds, she learns that she was involved in a horrific car accident. And, although she has no recollection of him, the man in her bed turns out to be her husband Ben, who has patiently stuck with her throughout her lengthy ordeal. Thus begins Before I Go to Sleep, the debut novel by S. J. Watson.
Johanna Morgan knows she is an embarrassment. After humiliating herself on live television, she realizes that to be cool, hip, and respected, she can’t be herself. In How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran, we watch Johanna reinvent herself into the girl she wants to be.
Jenna's mother vanished ten years ago without a trace. In Jody Picoult's latest novel Leaving Time, the precocious 13-year-old is on a mission to crack the mystery and locate her missing parent. Her father Thomas, now committed to a mental institution, can barely recognize his daughter, let alone assist her in her quest. Instead, Jenna solicits the help of Virgil, a washed-up private investigator—one of two former cops who actually worked her mother’s case—and Serenity—a once famous psychic, now fallen from grace.
After a valiant struggle, Carmen’s husband, Jobe, succumbs to leukemia. Although she admired Jobe, and bore and raised three children with him, Carmen felt little passion for her husband while he was alive and occasionally strayed outside of her marriage to savor that missing ingredient. In The Forever Marriage, by Ann Bauer, Carmen has daydreamed for years about being a “free” woman, but the reality of Jobe’s death affects her in unexpected ways as she looks back on their life together.
While wandering through Europe after her junior year, Carmen—beautiful, worldly, and untamed—was mortified when she accidentally spilled hot tea on a stranger in London’s Kensington Gardens. It’s through this encounter that she met ungainly Jobe, who was pursuing his PhD in mathematics at Oxford. Never was there a more mismatched couple. But despite their differences, Jobe always seemed available to rescue Carmen when her future was most uncertain.