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Review: In “Big Little Lies,” kindergarten parents might be just as unruly as their kids

In any elementary school, the over-involved, clingy parents are easy to spot. They’re signing up for the PTA, organizing a fundraiser of some sort, or notifying everyone of their child’s serious nut allergy. Pirriwee Public School is riddled with such parents; however, amid affluence, entitlement and tightly-held secrets, what was once typical schoolyard drama has turned into a devastating murder.

“Big Little Lies,” written by Australian author Liane Moriarty, is a tragic story from the very beginning, revealing that just about everyone in Pirriwee Beach is somehow tangled up in a crime.

Jane and 5-year-old Ziggy are new to town and brought their mysterious past with them. Jane is a single mom trying to juggle her freelance bookkeeping job and be an involved presence at her son’s school. When she is at the school, she’s the target of insensitive comments from snooty parents — all of whom assume she’s a nanny because of her young age.
Madeline is type-A, queen of gossip and bold with her backtalk. She’s fierce, but has a total soft side, and has taken Jane under her wing. Madeline ruthlessly prods into Jane’s past and delights in making sure she’s up to speed on the happenings in their quaint beach town. Of course she does all of this while trying to avoid her ex-husband and his new, all-natural, yogi wife, Bonnie; they have a daughter in the same class as her daughter Chloe.

Celeste is envied more than anyone else in Pirriwee Beach. Her husband is the kind of handsome that is only seen in movies, and his wallet holds more power than the queen. Celeste herself is as beautiful as they get, even as she wrangles two twin boys. The other parents know that Celeste often seems a little distracted and absent in social situations, but what they don’t know is that she is a victim of domestic abuse — her picture-perfect life isn’t as glamorous as it seems.

These three women are best friends and each other’s support system. Unfortunately, they are at the center of the twisted tragedy: the murder.

At the end of every chapter Moriarty includes interview-style excerpts from interrogations that the police department conducted while attempting to get to the bottom of the situation. They are ridiculous and hilarious and infuriating all at the same time; major and minor characters alike disclose information that is over-dramatized and completely irrelevant to the closure of the case, leaving readers greatly entertained, yet increasingly unsure of the real events .

Moriarty keeps readers in the dark for most of the book — it isn’t until the very end that what happened on that fateful night, and who was directly affected, is revealed. Some might find it annoying, but for those who can appreciate the vague tone, it is brilliantly written. Tackling big issues and leaving readers laughing along the way is no easy task; however, Moriarty found a way to strike a chord with readers across the board. Whether readers are parents of young children or at the least were once a young child, “Big Little Lies” is relatable.

Witty, scary and unpredictable, “Big Little Lies” is a book that won’t disappoint.

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Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban is an associate A&C editor at the Emerald from San Jose, CA.

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