Friday, August 16, 2019

Three Women: My Book of the Year

Three Women

I never give book reviews.  You may see me write about a book and share thoughts about its contents, usually a non-fiction book.  But I can’t recall in over 3,300 posts, over eight years, of ever reviewing a book that wasn't about publishing, writing, language, or free speech, but I would do a disservice if I didn’t endorse my favorite book of the year, Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo.

It reads like a novel, filled with stories about three women, each sexually dysfunctional and representative of millions of women.  It’s the kind of book women read but men like me would enjoy.

Why did I love – not just like – this book?

It is so well written and filled with a vibrancy rarely seen.  It is not quite Gone Girl, Girl on a Train or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Those were thrillers, fueled by violence and complex lives.  Those were great in their own way.  Three Women finds a way to reveal a person’s soul while allowing you to either relate with pity or be entertained the way one likes to gawk at a terrible car accident and say from a distance, ‘What a shame.’

The string of stories certainly have things in common, with commentary about how women define themselves by their relationships, how men mistreat women on so many levels, and how sometimes one simply can’t start fresh after a bad past.  But the stories are distinctive – a woman who desperately desires love, mistaking sex from an affair with someone who took advantage of her when in school years earlier as that of love; another who needs affirmation that her high school teacher really cares for her while an inappropriate sexual relationship ensues; and a woman who readily agrees to sleep with any man or woman her husband chooses for her, sometimes with him in the room watching or other times on her own with a promise to immediately share the details with him.  What appears to be a liberated woman is really a slave to his controlling fantasies.

They may not represent every woman, but they certainly seem to depict what a certain percentage of women put themselves through – psychologically and physically.  The book does not depict men in a favorable light but that doesn’t mean the author is anti-male.  She just didn’t focus on relationships that are healthy or thriving, which are probably in the minority, but she did explore how bad relationships damage women as well as how damaged women put undue pressure on themselves to make a relationship work.

The book is extremely well written, combining dialogue, thoughts, and astute observations to provide a feeling of being any of these three women thrust into their drama, from their perspectives.  Are they victims?  Are they really the strong ones?  Can they be both?

The author fascinates me.  I wonder, after joining her for 306 intense pages, if she was an amalgamation of these women, defined by the men in her life.  She’s definitely someone I’d like to have a drink with. The jacket copy for this $27 hardcover book says it all:

“Based on years of immense reporting, and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women, is a groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity and inequality of female desire with unprecedented depth and emotional power.  It is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy, that introduces us to three unforgettable women – and one remarkable writer – whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.”

I can’t quite describe Taddeo’s writing style except that it speaks with blunt statements for the reader, ones that are seemingly familiar or truthful to them.  She truncates time and finds a way to consolidate many thoughts and emotions into a singular moment or experience.

I found myself underlining various lines that resonated with me…

“She gives the impression of not knowing she’s being looked at.”

“It was typical of Sloane to see the promise of something before everyone else did.”

“It’s more like sexuality without boundaries.”

“Don’t men like him wish they could tell their wives what sort of pornography they like?  Wouldn’t he feel so wonderful to be completely known?”

“A husband who desires to enter another body, to hold another breast.  A wife who wants to see her husband want someone else, so that she may want him as much as she’d like to.”

“Sloane always found it alluring to mess around with a girl.  Even more that it was alluring, it was easy.”

“Sloane was confused; it had been a fantasy of hers to watch her husband fuck another woman, one she’d never quite expressed out loud, but something she often went to in her head...”

“Like any young girl who has a crush on someone older, she doesn’t know what she wants to happen.  She doesn’t know if she wants sex or no sex or to undress in her room while he watches from the sidewalk.”

“Her desire to talk about the man she loves is stronger than her understanding that talking about it can hurt the relationship.  She realizes in some part of herself that talking about it will make her more receptive to its potency.”

“There is always something you take for granted, Sloane knew, that somebody else is starving for.”

“Lina understands that some women , like her mother and her sisters, truly care for another woman only when that woman is in pain, especially in a kind of pain that they have already felt, and then overcome.”

“We don’t remember what we want to remember.  We remember what we can’t forget.”

“Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
--David Foster Wallace

“Action is the thing. We are what we do and do not do.”
--Ralph Ellison

“…EASY.  All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
--Mark Twain

“Always write as if you are talking to someone.  It works.”
--Maeve Binchy

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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