Once this book gets going it will tear through your emotions. Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women reads like fiction but is nonfiction. Now and then when you are reading you remember that these were three real women experiencing these terrible events and your anger intensifies.
I picked up this book thinking it was fiction and was excited to read some feminist literature. When I read the first line of the prologue — “This is a work of nonfiction” — I realised that I was wrong. But I was like great, feminist nonfiction, even better!
I struggled to get into this book, but once I got about a hundred pages in I couldn’t put it down. I thought about leaving this book twice and picking up something else. At first, I thought it was the writing. It’s simple. It was so simple that I didn’t think I could focus on the words. So either the books take a little while to get started or I was just in a bit of a reading slump after reading the numbing words of Murakami!
Taddeo uses the prologue and epilogue to situate her role in the book. She predominately focuses on her mother. When her mother was younger she was followed to and from work every day by a man masturbating behind her. She never said anything and to this day Taddeo still wonders why. No doubt by her mother’s experiences and more pushed her to write this book.
Three Women follows the story of three women; Maggie, Lina and Sloane. These are not their real names and neither is the setting the same for privacy reasons. But Taddeo portrays their stories so you cannot help feeling disgusted at how they were treated. Taddeo spent eight years and thousands of hours listening to their stories. She even moved to be closer to them. Taddeo gave these women a voice when society refused to listen. The power of literature!
The first woman we meet is Maggie. Maggie, like all the other women, is just a girl when her story begins. She is raised Catholic and when on holiday in Hawaii at sixteen she develops a relationship with a thirty-year-old. She is in love. But her family find out and they are torn apart. Maggie is heartbroken. She cannot confide in her family, they have their problems. So she confides in her teacher. She writes a letter telling him about the time in Hawaii and her home life. She presents herself as vulnerable and he lures her in. She falls in love with him. She thinks he cares. A secret affair starts.
Maggie can only text her teacher when he messages her. Everything has to happen on his word. He has control over the whole situation. And when six years later Maggie begins to realise that what happened was wrong she takes him to court. But he had the whole thing planned. Everyone trusted him and everyone else thought she was lying and unstable. The teacher is never punished. In fact, he gets North Dakota teacher of the year.
Lina is another of the woman we meet. When she is young Lina obsesses over boys. She knows every minute of her crushes days. Then one day she gets a date with Aiden. Her popularity boosts. She is invited to a party where she is raped by three boys one after another. From then on she is known as a whore — Aiden ignores her. It is not until she has children and is married again she gets back into contact with him.
Her husband refuses her sex. She wants sex. She begins to meet with Aiden, but like Maggie’s situation, it is only when it suits him. She is desperate. She spends money she does not have. She separates from her husband. Lina’s story is harder to gauge but you can see her sexual desperation is not fulfilled by the selfish nature of men in the world.
And there is Sloane. When Sloane is younger she develops an eating disorder, she wants to be in control. Her family are rich but she enjoys waitressing. Paralleling her mother’s car crash when she was young, Sloane crashes her brother’s car and is violated by him. None of the men in her life are good to her.
Sloane marries the chef from one of the restaurants she waitresses at. They then buy their own restaurant. Sloane’s husband likes to watch Sloane sleep with other men. He chooses men for her to sleep with. Sometimes he is not even there, she has to send him messages or videos. They find Wes, who is married, and he becomes a consistent third party member. Both men use her. His wife eventually finds out and Sloane is stripped from the one thing she likes in life. She is called names and her husband who planned it all is left unblamed.
Out of the three women, I think Sloane gets the most closure on her story. But all three women are left which a huge shadow on their lives. They are all frowned upon for their sexual lives — all because of the way men abused their power.
Although nonfiction, this book is designed to read like fiction. It is a quick but difficult read. The sexual restrictions of women are something that needs to be considered and Taddeo gives us an insightful look into the misogyny that is occurring in our day to day lives. This is an important read.