Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
- Author: Kirsten Miller
- Genre: Mystery/Thriller
- Publication Date: May 3, 2022
- Publisher: HarperAudio
CONTENT WARNING: misogyny, sexual assault, murder, violence, blood, suicide, mention of rape, suicide, eating disorder
Big Little Lies meets The Witches of Eastwick—a gloriously entertaining and knife-sharp feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers—putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town.
In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment…
After Nessa James’s husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she’s left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn’t take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead—a gift she’s inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.
On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn’t left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet’s life is far from over—in fact, she’s undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.
Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw—until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.
Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl’s murder leads to more bodies, and to the town’s most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don’t apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands…
It has been feeling like everyone was talking about this book, and I just wanted to find out what the hype was all about. I requested this as an audiobook, and I wasn’t expecting to write a full review for my blog, but I wasn’t far into the story before I knew this was going to be a blog review. There was no way I couldn’t highlight this incredible story on my little platform. And it’s absolutely amazing.
At first it seems like a regular story about a small town on the East End of Long Island, but it quickly leans into magical realism before fully shifting into the elements of mystery and then thriller, while fully retaining a strong theme of feminism throughout.
Miller immediately won me over with her perfectly accurate portrayal of the exclusive area of Long Island where she set her story. As a lifelong resident of Long Island, we all know how the area works—the rich live in these areas, where they set up these enclaves and isolate themselves from the realities of the people who work in and around their homes, making their lives easy and perfect. Yes, they also have dark secrets, but enough money makes it simple to make these problems disappear with minimal inconvenience, leaving them with little to worry about except the unsightly house down the street that isn’t abiding by the strict rules of the homeowners association, or the latest gossip.
Each of the women in the story is so different, but they’re all smart, motivated, confident, varying degrees of morally gray, and have all experienced misogyny in different ways. For each of them, it has affected their employment, and they’ve coped with it in different ways, but the higher up the corporate ladder they climbed, the more insidious, widespread, and acceptable it becomes. It affects them at home and in society, and once the paths of these three brave woman cross, they realize they’ve been brought together for a reason.
“This was her land they were standing on, she reminded herself. And yet this man was insisting she view the garden through his eyes. Where she saw promise and possibility, he saw proof of a broken mind. Harriett knew she would never convince him of her sanity, so she found herself faced with a choice. She could either believe her own eyes, or she could see what the man told her to see. It wouldn’t have been such a leap, truth be told. She had been seeing things through men’s eyes for years. Her entire career men had informed her what was good and what wasn’t; and she’d always assumed they were right.”
I loved seeing Harriett, Jo, and Nessa break out of the shell that they were programmed into and start becoming who they wanted to become. There were parts that made me laugh and so many parts that made me cheer for them, and there were even more parts that made me so angry for them about the experiences that they went through, even though it isn’t a fictional experience for far too many women, and it definitely isn’t unique.
The mystery aspect of the story was gripping. I couldn’t stop reading, and January LaVoy did an amazing job with this story, especially since there were multiple accents to convey. Considering that the more affluent areas of Long Island aren’t known for their diversity, I especially loved that one of the MCs was bisexual and another was a Black woman, and both were portrayed beautifully. This story is a fascinating one, full of female empowerment, questioning the patriarchal power structure, the labels that are placed on women and in particular the ones who challenge the status quo, and the way that strong women can work together to protect each other and bring down a corrupt system. This is a story that I fell in love with and that everyone needs to read, especially in these times.