With stunning candor, depth, and clarity Taddeo explores the impact of desire on the lives of three women. Maggie’s alleged to have had a relationship with her married high school teacher. Lina’s husband hasn’t kissed her in years, and the void is unendurable. Beautiful and privileged Sloane is married to a man who enjoys watching her have sex with other men. In many fine books you understand and empathize with the characters. In Three Women, you inhabit them. This is a groundbreaking and enlightening work of nonfiction that everyone will be talking about.
-Banna— From Banna's New Recs
“Extraordinary…A nonfiction literary masterpiece…I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women.” —Elizabeth Gilbert
“This is one of the most riveting, assured, and scorchingly original debuts I’ve ever read.” —Dave Eggers
“[An] instant feminist classic...Utterly engrossing...Game-changing.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
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.
About the Author
Lisa Taddeo has contributed to New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour, and many other publications. Her nonfiction has been included in the Best American Sports Writing and Best American Political Writing anthologies, and her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes. She lives with her husband and daughter in New England.
“I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women. Lisa Taddeo is a tireless reporter, a brilliant writer, and a storyteller possessed of almost supernatural humanity. As far as I’m concerned, this is a nonfiction literary masterpiece at the same level as In Cold Blood—and just as suspenseful, bone-chilling, and harrowing, in its own way. I know already that I will never stop thinking about the women profiled in this story—about their sexual desire, their emotional pain, their strength, their losses. I saw myself in all of them. Truly, Three Women is an extraordinary offering.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and City of Girls
“This is one of the most riveting, assured, and scorchingly original debuts I’ve ever read. Taddeo’s beautifully written and unflinching portraits of desire allow her protagonists to be wholly human and wholly, blessedly complex. I can’t imagine a scenario where this isn’t one of the more important—and breathlessly debated—books of the year.”
—Dave Eggers, author of The Monk of Mokha
“[An] instant feminist classic . . . In this utterly engrossing, frankly game-changing work of narrative nonfiction, a New York magazine contributor profiles a trio of everyday women, shining a light on their darkest desires and how men (and other women) often thwart those wants.”
—Michelle Hart, O, The Oprah Magazine
“Three Women is the new required reading for women and any person who wants to know them. Taddeo has given these women’s testimonies of desire, love, and trauma a brilliance and dignity that is nothing short of revolutionary.”
—Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
“Three Women offers a fascinating excavation of the intricacies of love and desire, where they conspire and where they conflict. Read this book. You will forever rethink the erotics of women.”
—Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity
“This book—challenging and heartbreaking—will stay with me. An extraordinary, documentary deep dive into the psychology of women and sex and the stories we tell ourselves. Three Women is as unputdownable as the most page-turning fiction.”
—Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You
“I literally could not put it down. An unflinching dissection of female desire so poetically described, I forgot it was nonfiction. Lisa Taddeo makes a gorgeous, unabashed debut. Wow.”
—Gwyneth Paltrow on Instagram
“It’s been years since I’ve read a book as propulsive, engrossing, mind-bending, and required as Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women. On the surface, it’s an account of how desire organizes, disrupts, and sometimes threatens to destroy the lives of its three heroines—and that, it seems, is the only way they’d have it. In this age of social media, when the most superficial forms of connection and engagement are touted as their opposites, Three Women reads like an antidote for our technologically-driven isolation and loneliness. It is the deepest dive into our neighbors’ consciousnesses that I’ve ever read, so immersive it approaches the Tolstoyan, and its narcotic pleasures mainline the only thing that can truly save us: empathy.”
—Adam Ross, author of Mr. Peanut
“Three Women is painstaking, painful, unblinking, unsentimental, and utterly unapologetic. Lisa Taddeo comes scarily close to proving the truth of a line uttered by a character in an Antonya Nelson story: ‘Love is sadness.’ ”
—David Shields, author of The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power
“This nonfiction look at the sex lives of three American women will be whispered about around pools from coast to coast.”
—Town & Country
“If you guzzled all of Esther Perel’s couples counselling podcast or wonder whether those [New York magazine] sex diaries can possibly be real, here’s your summer read. Lisa Taddeo draws on eight years of research to render three portraits of real women and their experiences of desire, coupling, and relationships.”
—Elle, “The 30 Best Books to Read This Summer”
“Dexterous and suspenseful . . . The stories of Maggie, Lina, and Sloane are offered here without judgment, which allows readers to objectively view their multivalent experiences. With Three Women, a heavyweight and a knockout both, Taddeo makes it possible for each woman to be the agent of her own storytelling.”
“Dramatic, immersive . . . Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires. . . . Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings.”