Here is an incomplete list of who should read Three Women in the form of a quote:
If you have a husband who barely touches you. If you have a husband who touches you too much, who grabs your hand and puts it on his penis when you’re trying to read about electric fences for golden retrievers. If you have a husband who plays video games more than he touches your arm. If you have a husband who eats the bun off your plate when you’ve left it but you aren’t one hundred percent done with it. If you don’t have a husband at all. If your husband died. If your wife died. If your wife looks at your penis like it’s a leftover piece of meatloaf she doesn’t want to eat but also refuses to throw out. If your wife miscarried late into her term and isn’t the same person and she turns her back to you, or she turns her emails to someone else.
There are definitely other kinds of people who should read this book, but the fascinating thing about Three Women is that even though it’s extremely specific, the details blur into a portrait of us all.
The book tells the story of Maggie, Lina, and Sloane. Although their stories are real – the work of a decade of journalism – their stories read like fiction. The level of detail and empathy that author Lisa Taddeo has employed to capture these women’s stories is completely astonishing. And yet, even though the work itself is impressive, it’s very easy to get swept away in the tragedy and comedy of these women’s lives.
Maggie is in her early twenties and is pursuing a court case against her old high school teacher for statutory rape. Lina is in her thirties and yearns for her husband to touch her, and, despite her religious upbringing, is tempted to find someone else to fulfil her needs. Perfect, elegant Sloane seems untouchable and distant, but behind her composed exterior is a world of almost-hads and didn’t-quites – she longs for something to happen to her, and yet hates herself when it finally does.
These three women’s stories aren’t linked by plot or circumstance – you shouldn’t go in expecting the stories to magically intertwine at the end. But thematically their stories sit together and form a portrait of women and contemporary life in 2019 – one of sex, romance, domesticity and, yes, more sex. It’s not always a pretty picture, but it is always an enlightening one.
Required reading for just about anyone – you won’t regret it.
All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn't touch her?
All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town?
All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?
Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.