Book Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m heartbroken. I’m thrilled. I’m understanding. I’m intrigued. I'm shocked. I'm gutted.
You know you’ve read a good book when you’re overcome with emotion after you’ve finished. And you especially know you’ve read something great when you’re still thinking about that book hours or even days after.
Three Women was one such book for me.
Through one-on-one conversations, email, and phone calls, journalist/author Lisa Taddeo spent eight years interviewing/interacting with three women about their desires and erotic lives. She catalogs the stories they told in this immensely compelling book. The women’s stories are told in a triptych format (Don’t know what that means? No worries! I read the word in a review and even me, an English major, had to look it up!). It’s three artistic or literary works expected to be appreciated together.
Told in alternating chapters, each sharing a bit of each woman’s story at a time, Taddeo uses the structure to give readers a narrative pace that works like a fictional thriller, in a sense. “What’s going to happen to Maggie now?” “She can’t leave us there with Lina!” “And Sloane just did what?!”
The three woman are diverse, not in ethnicity, all are white, but certainly in circumstance, socio-economic level, and age. Sloane, a rich, beautiful, successful 40-something restauranteur, looks like she’s living a life of perfection, however her desires are tangled up with those of her adoring husband, who, as her dominant, enjoys bringing both men and women into their bedroom. Lina, a midwestern housewife who was raped by three boys as a teen, longs to break out of her staid marriage to a man who doesn’t want to kiss her, let alone satisfy her sexually, so she embarks on an affair with a man from her past. And then there’s Maggie. The only one of the three to be written about using her real name, Maggie’s story engaged me the most. As a 17-year-old girl, Maggie entered into a sexual relationship (not full-fledged intercourse but most everything else) with her 29-year-old teacher. When he’s later named North Dakota Teacher of the Year, Maggie finally brings her accusations to the police and her teacher goes on trial. Do yourself a favor and don't Google the result, but read the rendering here.
Taddeo speaks in the prologue about presenting these stories as the “voices” of these women. Meaning, all that she relates (embellished with evocative language and observations) is from the women's point of views. Yet that's what's so fascinating about this book. Started well before the #metoo movement and the discussions, arguments, and issues that brought to the forefront of society, this book explores three women's place in that narrative. Maggie's story, most of all, is a textbook case of a young, impressionable girl being taken advantage of by her older teacher. Her story is not only enthralling, it's enraging.
I can't recommend this book enough. Not only because of its uncanny connection to today's renewed focus on women and the challenges they face in a society built on patriarchy, but also because I've never seen a more intense, complex, and, at its core, raw portrait of what drives women to lust and love.
Rating (1-5): 5
"It's nice when you find out someone else has the same small goal as you. Little things like this save the heart on a daily basis."
"A catch meaning he is the most attractive of the under-forty teachers pool. If you can't go to Las Vegas, you go to Foxwoods."
"Taking care of the house feels endless, and often purposeless. The kitchen floor is clean on Tuesday but by Thursday it's dirty. She used to have set days when she cleaned the floor but lately she just seems to clean it every day, sometimes twice a day. There is nothing to show for those hours. The children, of course, add purpose, but the house feels like a set of posts without a goal. Sometimes when Lina is in the big empty house she imagines a chasm inside her, a black space between one set of organs and the next. She feels she exists in that space, mindless, flavorless, unseen."
"What the fuck do you know about young women, Maggie thinks. We don't remember what we want to remember. We remember what we can't forget."