Big Brother by Lionel Shrive
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins
This novel, about a woman who essentially leaves her husband and children to help her obese brother lose over a hundred pounds, is one that’s received a TON of hype, and after reading it I can definitely see why. Shriver is an incredibly talented author, as I previously discovered while reading We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World – both of which are fantastic, thought-provoking, intense, polarizing novels. I can say with absolute certainty that Big Brother fits into the same category of book I just described – there’s so much food for thought in this novel it’s insane. The emotional intensity of what the characters are going through is the kind that drives the reader to continue reading late into the night, to feel what the characters are feeling, to be propelled by their journeys. Shriver’s writing is meticulous and perfect – she doesn’t waste a word, but at the same time, she manages to find interesting and different ways to think about the world and keeps her readers pondering her message the entire way through. However, the ending of this novel is one of the most anger-inducing endings I’ve read in a long time. I was FURIOUS with how Shriver felt it was appropriate to wrap up this otherwise excellent novel. So yes, I enjoyed this book, tremendously, until the end. Then I wanted to throw it across the room and never look at the thing again. So do with that what you will.
This was a She Reads selection a few months back, and while I unfortunately didn’t receive the book in time to read it for the monthly book club, I finally got to it in September, and oh my gosh did it make me wonder why I haven’t read this fantastic author’s work before! Basically, this is the story of three women, who for different reasons are each struggling with some aspect of their lives, and when one of them uncovers a secret about her husband, it ends up tying all three of them together. Most reviews I’ve read of this book have done a great job of not spoiling what this secret is, and I’ll keep that up here, but it’s a pretty big thing that majorly changes things for these three women. I seriously loved this book. I felt like Morairty was writing from her heart, from a place where she just gets what it is to be a woman in today’s world, to go through the struggles of being a wife, mother, friend, daughter, working woman, all that kind of stuff. At the same time, her characters were so real, so authentically true that I felt they could be people I know in real life, I saw my friends and family and even myself in these women. And the plot really moves along – I was unable to put the book down, I was so anxious to find out how these women would end up, where their lives would go, what kind of resolutions Morairty would provide for them. And she didn’t disappoint – not that things ended perfectly, because things here so mirrored real life for so many people, but they ended realistically and to me, exactly the right way. I truly loved The Husband’s Secret and now I’m off to find more of Morairty’s work!