This book was on my TBR list last year when it first came out. Heralded by many as a must read, I was intrigued first and foremost by a writer so willing to go all in for her craft that she’d spend eight years embedded with her subjects to ferret out all the details.
Author Lisa Taddeo goes the distance with Three Women, sharing the most intimate of these details in the lives of three distinctly different women: Maddie, a troubled teenager ensnared into an inappropriate relationship with a high school teacher; Lina, gang-raped as a teen and still looking for approval from and to be desired by her first love; and Sloane, a successful restauranteur married to a man whose sexual predilections require more than two people in a bedroom.
There’s a lot to unpack with each character study. Each of these three women were damaged by their introduction to their sexuality. For Maggie, it’s a teacher that gains her trust, draws her in, encourages the full-fledged relationship and then betrays her as much as he did his wife and children. It’s a betrayal from which she is still trying to recover.
For Lina, it’s friends of her older sister that take her innocence and reputation, leaving her years later still struggling to get back to that person she was prior to a gang rape. And when her husband denies her the physical and emotional intimacy she seeks, she turns to the last man she was connected to prior to her rape — her first real boyfriend, now married himself and also unwilling to give her what she really craves.
And then there’s Sloane, who I thought really was more in control of her situation than she actually is — emotionally detached from her family, full of self-loathing, and willing to take her determination not to be hurt to the nth degree when it comes to a husband that while in most ways loving is also manipulative and disturbing in the bedroom.
Why did Maggie turn to older men? Why was Lina so desperate for love that she’d beg an ex to meet her for sex? What propelled Sloane to compartmentalize sex and intimacy as completely as she did? Where exactly is the men’s responsibility in all this? As one woman says to another toward the end of the book, “You’re the woman, you’re supposed to have the power.” Is this really the case? Or is that the cop out excuse for one woman to suggest that her man isn’t to blame for an affair?
For me, like so many other stories, it’s really about one human’s desire to be validated. To be recognized as another worthy soul in this universe. Ugh, that all-encompassing immature desire for a person of the opposite sex to recognize you exist when you are a teenager. We may not have traveled in Sloane, Maggie or Lina’s shoes, but we can all relate to just wanting to be loved, in whatever form we think that is. As you can imagine, their upbringing has a lot to do with each of their current situations. Three Women goes a long way to proving the point that self-esteem isn’t exactly optional when it comes to growing up and into healthy relationships.
As first mentioned, there’s a ton to break down and this book would make for more than one high-spirited book club discussion. A great read and well worth your time.