Book Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

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Three Women follows the stories of 3 American women and their sex lives and desires.

“We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.”

Lina – A suburban wife and stay at home mom who is tired of being in a passionless marriage with a husband who refuses to kiss her on the mouth. She reconnects with an old flame on Facebook, Aidan and begins a torrid affair.

Maggie – A 16 year old who gets through the scandal of dating a 24 year old Marine, begins to have an affair with her married high school teacher, Aaron Knodel when she turns 17. Years later, when she is 23, Aaron is named Teacher of the Year and Maggie is compelled to file charges against him.

Sloane – A successful restaurant owner who is obsessed with being thin is happily married to a man who likes watching her have sex with other men. Sloane feels she is genuinely happy but wonders every now and then if she really is happy with this arrangement.

So this book is marketed as an exploration of female desire and sexuality that took Taddeo almost 8 years to write and these three women are real life women who shared their stories with her. To be honest, I did not know that till I was done with the book and was browsing the bookstore and could not find the book in the Fiction section. Instead, I found it under “Women Studies” and that took me by surprise.

In delving into interviews, it would appear that Taddeo’s goal was to explore and shine truth on where women stand with sexuality and desire via these women’s stories. Well for one, these women are all white women with two of them having a Catholic background, so how diverse is it? I think in one of the Maggie chapters there is a line that talks about how even when being a victim of sexual assault, you have to be the  right kind of victim – young, pretty and in most cases, white.

I digress, my point is this book didn’t seem analytical and I don’t think I got any insight or point of view. It really read fictional and almost salacious as the sex scenes were very well detailed. In fact, based on description all the women seemed really good at sex and good for them on that.

“If people are denied certain parts of relationships they need as children, they hunt for these parts as adults.”

The best thing about this book was the writing. Props to Taddeo for her writing style. It was fully descriptive. I liked how each character got a book end description in terms of giving us background on their childhood and their present day. I felt like I understood each character regardless of whatever non traditional actions they took because Taddeo fully immersed us in their way of thinking. Each character seemed to be so clear on their exact thoughts and feelings and it was enjoyable reading through.

“This takes the air from her but then he approaches. The problem, she’s starting to understand, is that a man will never let you fall completely into hell. He will scoop you up right before you drop the final inch so that you cannot blame him for sending you there. He keeps you in a diner like purgatory instead, waiting and hoping and taking orders.”

Lina was the character I found myself most annoyed with. I mean yay for getting her groove back with Aidan but Aidan was such a jerk. The quote above described their relationship, and she gave him so much control, it was infuriating! It was so uncomfortable reading how desperate she was for his affection and attention and knowing he knew how desperate she was.

“The main problem for Maggie, which several bystanders observe, is that she is too aggressive. Victims aren’t supposed to be snarly. She is crying, but not torrentially, not as if her vagina were brutalized. She is not crying appropriately.”

I found Maggie’s story the most compelling and her story was probably the most common. It was a reminder that we tend to think teenagers should know better but it’s easy to seek affection any way you can get it especially from someone older who has picked out and groomed their prey.

“One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.”

While Sloane seemed very into inviting other people in their bed, she seemed to be at war with herself on whether it was what she really wanted or what her husband wanted. Her background inferred this was of her own volition but as we get to learn about her past, it’s hard as a reader to understand what her head space was.

“Women shouldn’t judge each others lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.”

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I went through it pretty quickly. I think if you go into it expecting a female empowerment, social experiment diving deep into women’s heads, you will be disappointed. But if you just go into it thinking of it as a fictional read and letting yourself lean into the characters and their stories, you’ll enjoy it more.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo”

  1. Thanks for this review. I’ve seen so many mixed reviews and I kind of want to read it just to see, but this review really helps me with what kind of mindset to go into it with. Thanks!


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