Nonfiction November #4

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

When I read the synopsis of this book billing it as “desire as we’ve never seen it before” I had a totally different impression of what it would be. In my mind a book that talked about the sex lives and desires of three women would be a liberating piece that showcased women who were confident and sure of themselves. Just imagine Cardi B’s WAP but for a married Christian woman LOL. But seriously though, I expected a sober piece of journalism that allowed women to reveal what they wanted and how they got it.

While Three Women is indeed sobering, it is not refreshing. In fact I found it heartbreaking. I was so troubled by my response that I ended up reading parts of it aloud to my husband so that I could get his take.

Here’s what we agreed upon:
None of the women are getting what they truly desire.
— Maggie wants someone she can trust and talk to.
— Lina wants to feel safe and wanted.
— Sloane wants to like herself.

Three Women shows how these desires manifest themselves in these women’s sex lives. All of these women have been abused. Maggie is groomed by her teacher after confiding in him. He takes advantage of her dysfunctional family and fragile state to molest and rape her. Lina’s rape in high school leads her to choose a “safe prospect” in a husband. The only problem is there is no passion in their marriage. She gives up and looks elsewhere after a psychologist says that it is perfectly normal for her husband not to want to kiss her and that she shouldn’t expect that of him. Sloane childhood abuse has led her to have body dysmorphia. She is compulsive about her weight and looks and strives to do everything in her power to please her husband. even if this means that she has to sleep with other people of his choosing.

I would argue that none of these women are acting on their own desires, not even Lina. They are all submitting to a man’s desire.

The book is written from alternating viewpoints. Although I have seen this in fiction I do not see what purpose it served here. I found it quite disruptive to the flow of the book and in some cases Taddeo was repetitive. My husband and I both agree that there were points where Taddeo was dramatic, if not melodramatic in her descriptions. I guess she was going for the nonfiction that reads like fiction sort of thing. But unfortunately it has the impact of making the stories less plausible. There was a level of precision in setting the scene that I thought could not have been recalled by the subjects after such long periods of time. My husband felt that Taddeo was trying to insert herself into the studies. For me, some of the metaphors were quite cringe worthy. Just think gearshifts and ghost shaped emissions here.

I was surprised at the transparency and honesty that these women showed. It was awfully brave of them to share their experiences with such candor. Especially since society is so quick to judge them for immorality while the men involved are given a reprieve.

This review first appeared on my GoodReads page.

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