“But the stories wherein desire was something that couldn’t be controlled, when the object of desire dictated the narrative, that was where I found the most magnificence, the most pain.”
The lives of 3 women are left bare for us to read and judge, in Taddeo’s novel ‘Three Women’. Over a period of 8 years, Taddeo interviewed these women extensively. They are the brave souls who agreed to come out with the story of their lives, memories, and events that shaped their personality in a good or bad way, and what desire truly means to them.
“This is how Maggie handles adversity. If someone criticizes her in the wrong way, not taking the time to tell her that she is still worth something, she doesn’t try to do better.”
Maggie, a teenager falls in love with her teacher, Mr. Knodel. Troubled by her alcoholic parents and events that isolated her from the rest of the world, it is Mr. Knodel who envelopes her into a protective embrace, patiently listening to her worries and woes and being kind in all ways that matter. But her life starts to unravel when Mr. Knodel breaks up with her, chooses his family over her (despite all the promises he made) and humiliated her in front of the entire world.
“Lina was raised not to talk about emotions. Her parents were fluent in the language of Oh God Lina You’re Fine. Enough, Lina. Get Over It Lina. You Have It Good Enough Lina. When she became a mother, she got a little respect.”
Lina, raped as a teenager grows up into an individual who desperately seeks attention and acceptance. As a married woman, she leads a suffocating life. All she wants is to be kissed, but her husband won’t even look at her that way. She finds an escape in Aidan, her first boyfriend and after separating legally from her husband, starts a full-fledged affair with him. But she is obsessed with Aidan’s show of affection and despite believing that Aiden is in it just for the physical intimacy, craves his touch every second of the day.
“In these moments, when she was sleeping with other people, she often felt clear. The negative aspects of her life melted into the periphery.”
Sloane, captivating and married to a chef has a peculiar arrangement in her marriage. He husband like watching her sleep with other men. But even when she is unhappy seeing her husband engage in such an act, she feels powerful and in control.
The ‘desire’ these women show or need are different from one another, even though their stories are vaguely similar. All Maggie wants is a life where she and Mr. Knodel are affectionate and loving because she feels protected. After being judged for being a victim of statutory rape, a betrayal of sorts coming from everyone including family and friends, she seeks him out again and again for support and sanity. Lina wants to feel desired. With a crumbling marriage at hand and the lack of any form of intimacy, she wants someone who needs her in a fierce, animal-like manner. Sloane’s desire to be with her husband and to please him precedes her principles or needs.
Their actions are questionable and we are bound to judge them but the overall message is precise. If you seek empowerment, this is not the book you must pick. Because these are just stories, raw and unfiltered, spoken with an intensity that resonates with the vulnerable side of the reader. These women are subjected to cruelty by their loved ones and their problems are considered irrelevant because in the bigger scheme of things they probably mean nothing. There are bits and pieces of ourselves hiding in plain sight, even if it isn’t our story. What’s more is that the stories have the power to invoke feelings like hate, anger, and despair within the reader’s mind and that is a powerful thing.
‘Three Women’ is all about a cruel and judgemental world through three stories that deserve to be heard. And that is not because of the elements in the stories but the fact that we are all slaves to our nature and are prone to error, but that doesn’t allow the world to let us suffocate.
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Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Desire as we’ve never seen it before: a riveting true story about the sex lives of three real American women, based on nearly a decade of reporting.
It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts and destroys our lives. It’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, Three Women, is the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written.
We begin in suburban Indiana with Lina, a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. She passes her days cooking and cleaning for a man who refuses to kiss her on the mouth, protesting that “the sensation offends” him. To Lina’s horror, even her marriage counselor says her husband’s position is valid. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks. When she reconnects with an old flame through social media, she embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming.
In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student who finds a confidant in her handsome, married English teacher. By Maggie’s account, supportive nightly texts and phone calls evolve into a clandestine physical relationship, with plans to skip school on her eighteenth birthday and make love all day; instead, he breaks up with her on the morning he turns thirty. A few years later, Maggie has no degree, no career, and no dreams to live for. When she learns that this man has been named North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year, she steps forward with her story—and is met with disbelief by former schoolmates and the jury that hears her case. The trial will turn their quiet community upside down.
Finally, in an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane—a gorgeous, successful, and refined restaurant owner—who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women. He picks out partners for her alone or for a threesome, and she ensures that everyone’s needs are satisfied. For years, Sloane has been asking herself where her husband’s desire ends and hers begins. One day, they invite a new man into their bed—but he brings a secret with him that will finally force Sloane to confront the uneven power dynamics that fuel their lifestyle.
Based on years of immersive reporting, and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is a groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity, and inequality of female desire with unprecedented depth and emotional power. It is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy, that introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
*Thank you Bloomsbury India for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own*