I had a bit of trouble listening to Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Such raw and frank writing about the sex lives of women, read aloud and with great emotion by three narrators, was both uncomfortable and exhilarating. I found myself oscillating between cringing and listening just a little bit more closely.
Taddeo's book is an exploration into female desire, and the text is divided between the stories of three real women. First we have Lina, a thirty-something Midwestern mother of two who is married to a man who refuses to kiss her on the mouth, despite her pleading. Next is Sloane, a forty-something East Coast restauranteur whose husband chooses other men and women for her to have sex with, both with and without him. Last is Maggie, a twenty-something woman living in North Dakota who details the aftermath of a sexual relationship she had with her married teacher while in high school.
The book dives into the relationships, the sexuality, and the deep rooted feelings of each woman, though their stories are ultimately filtered through the voice of Taddeo. I experienced a bit of second hand embarrassment while reading about how much deep want and need Lina carries around with her every day, even as she begins an affair with her high school crush, who is still a total dirt bag toward her. It was uncomfortable to read about Sloane's self-confidence spiraling into an eating disorder, and ultimately into a relationship where she has little control about who she sleeps with, and ends up having sex with with a co-worker's husband without her knowledge. It's even more difficult to read Maggie's story. At 16 years old, she fell love with her teacher, Aaron Knodel, who reciprocated that love and affection in the form of sexual acts, love notes and hours and hours of phone conversations. She reported the relationship at the age of 23, Knodel was taken to court, and was ultimately acquitted.
The point of Three Women, for me, was not that female desire is unique and special and worthy of discovery, but that every fiber of a women's happiness is inexorably tied to the actions and feelings of the man in her life. Lina, Slone and Maggie lose themselves in their partners, to the detriment of their own self-development and self-identities. Describing Lina as she texts Aidan, her lover, Taddeo writes: "There is a strategy to each letter. There is a strategy to punctuation. Her entire life depends on his responses." Her entire life.
Three Women is unlike any book I have read before, in part due to its graphic sexual descriptions from the female perspective, and its deep analysis into the daily lives of these women, and a focus on their feelings about sex and themselves. Have you read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo? I'd love to know your thoughts!!
Hope you're all staying healthy, and happy reading!
P.S. Cover image from Stylist