When we heard that Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel, Big Little Lies was being adapted as a limited series on HBO, we were instantly intrigued. And then we found out about the star-studded cast, including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, with Jean-Marc Vallée directing (of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild fame). With all those A-list names, how could Big Little Lies go wrong? Luckily, we can assure you that it’s awesome. Soapy and sexy and shot like a cinematic movie, this is HBO – and Moriarty – at their best. The reviews have come pouring in since the show premiered on February 19, and there’s a common tagline that keeps popping up again and again: Big Little Lies is Desperate Housewives meets premium cable.
We honestly can’t think of anything that sounds better.
The show centers around an elementary school in Monterey, CA, where three mothers meet, become friends, and change each other’s lives forever. Witherspoon stars as Madeline Martha Mackenzie, a ruthless and passionate mother who’s secretly struggling with the fact that her older daughter is growing closer to her ex-husband’s new wife. She’s friends with Celeste (Kidman), a beautiful mother of twin boys who’s married to a younger man. The two also befriend Jane (Woodley), a young, outcast mother who’s new in town and harboring some dark secrets about her past. As they navigate marriage, motherhood and their own personal ambitions, the three become caught up in a deadly accident that will have consequences for all of them.
As fans of Moriarty’s novel, we have a pretty good idea of where the plot is headed. But it’s still amazing to see it filtered through Vallée’s directorial vision, with the moody shots and the twisting storyline only highlighting the human stories at its core. In fact, Moriarty is known for her complicated stories about life and finding the darkly funny moments that affect us all. With seven adult novels and three children’s books under her belt, she’s also a prolific writer who keeps publishing bestseller after bestseller. If you’re unfamiliar with Moriarty’s work, trust us when we say that she’s a must-read.
For all those new fans of the HBO limited series, here are three Moriarty novels that we guarantee you’ll love as much as Big Little Lies:
Truly Madly Guilty (Flatiron Books, July 26, 2016)
Moriarty’s latest novel is also one of her best. Sam and Clementine are a happy couple with two adorable daughters. When Clementine’s childhood friend invites them to a BBQ with her neighbors, the family decides to go. But when things don’t go as planned, everyone will be affected by the events of that day. Friendships and relationships are tested as guilt and trauma threaten to tear them all apart. Moriarty’s expert narrative hops between the present and the past, building a mystery that will suck you in from page one.
The Husband’s Secret (Berkley, June 30, 2013)
Besides Big Little Lies, this novel is probably one of Moriarty’s most popular. It tells the story of Cecilia Fitzpatrick, a businesswoman, mother and wife, who finds a secret envelope addressed to her, written by her husband and only to be opened in the event of his death. So she opens it, despite the fact that he’s very much still alive. Inside is a secret that will rock her world forever. The novel is told through the perspectives of three separate women, Cecilia, Rachel and Tess, who initially seem unconnected. But the secret Cecilia finds is so monumental that it pulls all three women into the same orbit, forcing them to confront some harsh realities about life, guilt and what it means to do the right thing.
What Alice Forgot (Berkley, June 2, 2011)
What if you couldn’t remember the last 10 years of your life? It’s a question Moriarty ponders through Alice Love, the protagonist at the heart of What Alice Forgot. After an accident at the gym, Alice wakes up convinced that she’s 29, pregnant with her first child and happily married to the love of her life. But in reality she’s 39, with three kids and a marriage that’s on the rocks — as well as a healthy dose of amnesia. Now, with the help of friends and family, she has to recreate the last 10 years of her life. The years have changed her, however, and she’s tougher and more opinionated and outspoken than she ever thought possible. Alice has to decide which version of herself is real if she’s ever going to create the future that she truly wants.