Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014)


Liane Moriarty is a great story teller and Big Little Lies is one of those engaging books that the reader doesn't want to end because it is such a riveting read. Although written in 2014, Moriarty's novel has been adapted recently for television by HBO. First aired in February 2017 the mini-series features Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz, an impressive cast.

Set by the seaside in Pirriwee, Australia, Big Little Lies is centered around the stories of three women, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane, whose lives intertwine when their children all attend kindergarten at Pirriwee Public, the local elementary school. An unfortunate incident that happens at the orientation for kindergarten begins the connection between the three protagonists.

Sign Up for E-News

Jane, the single mother of an imaginative five year old named Ziggy, has come to Pirriwee to create a life for herself and her son, who is the result of an unfortunate one night stand when Jane was only 19. The ramifications of the night when Ziggy was conceived are so disturbing that they have kept Jane emotionally paralyzed even in the present. Mother of a teenage daughter, Abigail, as well as a five year old daughter from her second marriage, Madeline befriends Jane early in the story. Madeline is struggling with the fact that her ex-husband, Nathan, has settled in town with his second wife, Bonnie, and their child who attends the same class with Madeline's little girl. Madeline has difficulty coping with the close proximity of the husband who abandoned her and his new wife. Finally, there is Celeste, a gorgeous, leggy lady, with a seemingly perfect life, twin boys, handsome husband, lots of money, and a ferociously dark, ugly secret about what goes on inside her palatial home.

The plot of Big Little Lies is skillfully woven. There has been a murder, which is revealed early in the novel. Each chapter moves the characters through the events leading up to Trivia Night, a big fund-raiser/party at which the climatic moment occurs, but tacked on to the end of each chapter are statements by those who witnessed or are investigating what happened that night. The effect of this literary technique is to heighten the suspense as the story moves forward.

The seed for Moriarty's novel came when she heard a radio interview in which a woman revealed her tainted childhood. Her parents' abusive relationship often spurred her to hide under her bed to escape the terror that was going on in the home. The theme of domestic abuse, in all its ugliness, becomes a focal point for more than one of the main characters. Moriarty ties the impact of witnessing violence in the home to incidences of bullying by children who experience such horror in the place that is supposed to be their safe havens.

By linking domestic abuse to bullying behaviors, Moriarty helps us understand how to cope with the violent world in which too many women and children live today. Late in the novel Madeline comes to this realization: “It occurred to her that there were so many levels of evil in the world. Small evils like her own malicious words. Like not inviting a child to a party. Bigger evils like walking out on your wife and newborn baby or sleeping with your child's nanny. And then there was the sort of evil of which Madeline had no experience: cruelty in hotel rooms and violence in suburban homes and little girls being sold like merchandise, shattering innocent hearts.” (p.411)

What Madeline and her friends come to understand is that by standing up for what is right, by confronting evil, and by taking responsibility for one's actions, evil can be combated and effectively denied.

Although set half-way around the world from America, Big Little Lies is universal in its depiction of contemporary life. There are secondary characters, like the “Blonde Bobs,” whom we all recognize as catty women with superior attitudes who thrive on gossip and the misery of others. There are delightful characters as well, like Tom the local barista, who owns the local coffee shop Blues Blues, a haven for those in need of a homey, quiet space in which to relax. Even Abigail, Madeline's fourteen year old daughter, develops a social conscience and comes up with a unique plan to raise money for young girls who are held as sex slaves in third world countries.

If you are a fan of the novels of Jodi Picoult, you will enjoy Moriarty. There are similarities in the topics that these contemporary writers use to reflect on the world in which we live.


Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


MorrisTech Meetup Receives Award from Morris County EDC

March 20, 2018

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - The innovative and technology driven MorrisTech Meetup has been awarded the 2017 Non-Profit of the Year Award by the Morris County Economic Development Corporation.

"We are thrilled, proud and grateful to receive this award, and convinced more than ever that Morris County is exceptionally suited to be a thriving tech hub", said founder, Chatham ...

Student-Led March for Our Lives to Take Place in Morristown, Mar. 24

March 21, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Morristown and surrounding-area students are planning to participate in a movement called 'March for Our Lives' taking place on Saturday, March 24. Part of a nationwide movement to pass common-sense gun legislation in America, the students plan on gathering in several places across the state of New Jersey, including Morristown, Montclair, Maplewood, ...

National Student Walk Out: MCST Students Have Had #Enough

March 21, 2018

On Wednesday March 14, nearly one million teenagers across the country stood up and walked out of school as part of a nationwide protest calling upon Congress to take action against gun violence. I am proud to have been one of them.

Undeterred by the small size of the school, my friends and classmates at Morris County School of Technology in Denville, NJ participated in the national event at ...

GFWC Partners with 46 West Hair Salon for "Haircuts for a Cause"

March 20, 2018

The GFWC Woman’s Club of the Denville-Rockaway area, along with 46 West Hair Studio, is sponsoring ‘Haircuts for A Cause’ on Sunday, April 29th from 10:00am -4:00pm.

The hair salon is located on 46 West Main St, Rockaway and is offering $20.00 haircuts, for men & women on Sunday, April 29th. 

The proceeds of the haircuts will be donated to Family Promise, whose ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, March 22, 5:00 PM

The Mansion at Mountain Lakes, Mountain Lakes

St. Mary's Prep Tricky Tray

Food & Drink

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Other Sports

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...