Three Women – Lisa Taddeo

three women
three stars black
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Pages: 320
Release Date: July 9, 2019

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, 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.

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.


Three Women is a true story based on the sex lives of three American women gained through a decade of vigilant reporting. Readers follows three women as they are faced with different challenges and issues within their sex lives. It is an intimate look at female desire in all its complexities.

Taddeo’s writing style mirrors that of a stream of consciousness technique. This style allows for Three Women to read as fiction as readers explore almost all aspects of these women’s lives. I enjoyed the narrative while simultaneously disliking it. I was able to jump into these women’s lives easily and sympathize with their plights. However, it made reading Three Women long and cumbersome. At times, there is too much detail slowing down the narratives.

Maggie becomes involved with her high school English teacher. Maggie’s story is heart wrenching and a prime example of misogyny, patriarchy, and the delicate balance of power teachers has over their high school students. Her story is hard to read as Taddeo outlines clearly the ways Maggie was groomed and manipulated. Rape comes in many different forms, not just penetration. Even though I criticized the writing style, it works perfectly for Maggie’s narrative as it conveys her innocence and the power imbalance.

Lina is in a sexless marriage. Her husband will not kiss her or engage in any sexual activity. Lina then becomes consumed in an affair that allows her own her sexuality and explore undiscovered parts of herself.

Sloan is part restaurant owner with her husband who happens to like watching her have sex with other men. Sloan explores her sexuality as she navigates the power imbalance between herself and her husband.

Overall, Three Women is an interesting take on nonfiction that reads like fiction. Taddeo isn’t here to hold your hand and make sure you understand the purpose of telling these women’s stories. Instead, they stand on their own and what you take from them varies.

***I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.


Have you read Three Women? What did you think? If not, will you add it to your TBR?

11 thoughts on “Three Women – Lisa Taddeo

  1. From your description, I’m sort of surprised this IS non fiction. It seems sort of like an odd choice for someone to write non fiction about, not sure it’s my kind of book, but it is an interesting concept!

  2. I’ve been seeing this around on a few journalistic “best of 2019” lists and was curious. I think I’ll skip it though. Probably an important work for the message it’s putting out there- but stream of consciousness style is not really my thing. Power to you for slogging through it!

    1. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who dislikes stream of consciousness. There are so many popular thriller/mystery novels that are written like that that I dislike. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one on this dislike island haha.

      1. I like it in certain situations where it make sense- I don’t feel like this particular book makes sense in that style. One example of where it was done well was Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It made sense because the MC was wandering around a bunch of dark tunnels on an alien object and the stream of consciousness sort of just added to the horror and the immediacy of the situation. I don’t like it in most books.

      2. I started Children of Time, and was enjoying it, but I had a really bad reading slump hit and never finished. I think the length of that book + reading slump were not working for me.

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