Fascinating, raw, and NSFW. Ten years of reporting is on full display, recounting women's complicated sex lives.
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Why I love it
Co-host, Bad on Paper
Recently over drinks I asked a friend, “What’s the last book you read that you just couldn’t put down?” Without hesitation, she answered, Three Women. Now, I’m not usually a nonfiction reader—and I have a stack of half-read memoirs to prove it—but with this book, I have to agree with my friend: Three Women sucks you in from the very first page. After all, who would pass up a voyeuristic glimpse behind the bedroom doors (or in some cases, the classroom or car doors) of three real women?
Lisa Taddeo spent eight years and thousands of hours with the women profiled in Three Women, and she gives a shockingly vulnerable account of their sexual histories and innermost desires. There’s Maggie, a 23 year old in North Dakota involved in a court case against the high school teacher she had a physical relationship with as a minor. Lina is an Indiana housewife in a loveless marriage, embarking on an affair with her high school sweetheart. Finally, there’s Sloane, a glamorous 40-something in Newport, RI, who has sex with other men while her husband watches.
Despite having little in common with any of these women on the surface, I found a great deal of power and resonance in the depiction of their emotional lives and motivations. Who among us can’t relate to the fear of being alone or the desire to be loved—even by someone who isn’t exactly perfect? It's this emotional universality that has me predicting this book will be the nonfiction read of the summer.
It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts, destroys our lives, and 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 and one of the most anticipated books of the year.
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.
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I cannot bow to these women’s stories enough. The writing was raw and beautiful and achy. The ending didn’t feel like enough closure, but thats the nature of non-fiction! These women are all of us. ????
Sexuality for females has been oppressed throughout history, so nothing like this has been written before. Grateful that I’m not the only mom like Lina, or the only objectified girl like Maggie. 5/5⭐️
Fort Walton Beach, FL
This book will make you question things about yourself. Why you are the way you are, why you fall in love with the people you do, what you would do in these women’s situations...couldn’t put it down.
Neptune Beach, FL
Wow, perhaps this is copyright infringement but I had to take a pic of the “old lettuce” excerpt and forward it to several people. Merely spreading the word of how salaciously wonderful this book was.
I read other people’s reviews stating how they didn’t like this book and why. I read it out of order by reading each of the women’s stories through. I would have liked more closure but did love it.
I didn’t like how Taddeo failed to use quotations around all of the dialogue in this novel, but since that is a choice she made, as a writer, I can’t really knock it. These stories resonated with me.
I loved how honest each character is and how the book explores the ways in which people make “wrong” decisions. The way the excitement and desire were so honestly told really made the book ring true.
I’ve always felt such an outsider when it came to my sordid past. This book was written so beautifully and was such a poetic, poignant, heartbreaking and triumphant look into the sex lives of 3 women.
I usually struggle with nonfiction, but I just LOVED Taddeo’s prose. I was drawn to each story and I felt a whole rollercoaster of emotion throughout. Couldn’t put it down. To Maggie, I believe you!
Columbus , OH
So much emotional power in one book! I loved going back and forth between each women’s point of view. All three situations were different & unique but tied together with ultimate desire taking control
I couldn’t stop reading, but not necessarily in a good way... kind of like when you drive by an accident on the highway and you know you shouldn’t look but you look. Raw, but necessary, captivating.
Rolesville , NC
This book was a very fast read with three different women’s stories related to their relationships. At times, it was depressing to hear their stories and they way they were treated by men. Must read!
Madisonville , KY
This book painted a picture of a woman’s experience with life and love, through the eyes of three very different women. It reminded me that all women are not the same, but we can support one another.
I can’t put my finger on what it is about this book,but I was enthralled. It was raw and relatable, shining a light on the world we, as women, too often live in. I recommend it to everyone. A new fave
These women’s stories hit so hard. It would be so easy to pass judgement on them but instead the author told their stories in such a moving way that you had to feel for them. Makes me think of my own.
If you are tired of women being judged & “labeled” when choosing to live outside of white-picket-fence societal expectations, this book is for you. Our sexual desires deserve to be heard & accepted.
Once I finally started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know right away what was going to happen to each woman and where her journey was going to take her. Very thought provoking
This book is a constant reminder that “if a boy does it, he’s a player; if a girl does it, she’s a whore”. Shame. I could also relate to each story and character in a way that I found shocking.
This book was simultaneously wonderful, depressing, and thought-provoking. I wish there was more diversity. I don’t think that the stories of three white women really reflect the desires of US women.
Carlsbad , CA
All 3 stories exemplified different ways men hold power over women in their relationships. Not sure if it is a constant struggle to take their power back or if that’s how women are most comfortable.