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Three Women

Written by: Lisa Taddeo
Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (104 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Number one New York Times best seller

"THIS IS THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR. This is it. This is the one.... It blew the top of my head off and I haven’t been able to stop thinking or talking about it since." (Elizabeth Gilbert)

"The most in-depth look at the female sex drive that’s been published in decades." (New York)

"A breathtaking and important book.... What a fine thing it is to be enthralled by another writer’s sentences. To be stunned by her intellect and heart." (Cheryl Strayed)

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 17-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 18th birthday and make love all day; instead, he breaks up with her on the morning he turns 30. 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.

©2019 Lisa Taddeo (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I’m still trying to figure out how to explain what I think of this book. It’s every woman in some way. Magnificent read!

It moved me. I related to it in so many ways. It angered me and made me sad and I was cheering for each woman at different parts and felt defeated and sad for them in others.
I think it’s a book I might not have understood if younger me read it. I would have been judgmental, but 40 year old me gets them, all of them and has been them in one way or another at different points of my journey.
It’s deep, and magnificent. Highly highly recommend. Side note: It’s not something you’d want to listen to so everyone can hear (in a car with others) sensitive moments and it’s very very adult in parts.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Loved it.

The narrative was beautifully read and the story poignant. I really enjoyed the story immensely.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So Compelling!

This book is relatable, raw and so revealing. It speaks to what women endure but also to what we think and feel and how we live our lives. I am not quite sure how to articulate how I feel about the book. It has stuck with me. Parts of it made me physically wince because I related so clearly to some of the characters and their deepest, darkest feelings. Wow.

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Edgy and Real

A very real look at three vastly different women, yet ultimately the same in their insecurities.
It enables you to see yourself in one or all three of the stories and permits you to then honestly confront your own darkness.

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I found myself in every chapter

Each of the three women in this book told some part of my story. So raw, so honest. Thoroughly enjoyed and devoured this book.

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a needed read

listened to it start to finish within 2 days. so good, so real. unfiltered look at the reality of love and life

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Quite the book.

Really good listening. Especially while on a long drive.
Enjoyed the way it was presented .


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brilliantly written

this book made me cringe all the way through but in the best way possible.

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Interesting read

I enjoyed this book. It was interesting, sometimes poetic and relatable. This book is about sexuality but it’s just as much about humanity and femininity. It highlights our shared desires and hangups as women, in a most humane way. I thought it would be mainly about sex, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much more.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Homer
  • 2019-07-25

Moving, literary nonfiction

This book is a nonfiction account of the lives of — surprise! — three women. It is their accounts of their struggles to find romantic love (mostly heterosexual) and how that affects the trajectory of their lives, for better and worse. It is not a story of their struggles with career, school, family, etc. It’s an interior struggle that plays out with the key men (and a few women) in their lives.

While focusing on the particular, the book becomes universal. By the end, you are left with the impression that all of us have romantic triumphs and wounds that shape who we are. Even for this male reader.

The writing and narration are superb. Non-fiction is often just a “data dump” — here are facts. This reads like good literary fiction. The narrators convey the emotional subtext of the story very well. The level of writing and narration elevate this book out of the genre

One small complaint: the arbitrary switching among the stories of the three women. I think I would have preferred to hear one story, start to finish, before moving on to the next. When the next switch came, I was left hanging on to the previous story and needed to take time to reacquaint myself with the woman’s story I was rejoining.

I am impressed with the level of immersive reporting that went into this book. It’s obvious this author spent years on this project. Well worth the effort to produce something as well done as this.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer S. Leblanc
  • 2019-07-13

Shocking and sensitive

Great book with fair handling of a difficult subject. The themes in the three wildly different stories are expertly drawn together. Difficult to read without feeling both the thrill and pain of the three protagonists.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • OwlB
  • 2019-07-17

Interesting but lispy

I just couldn't do the author's lisp. Mena Suvari's narration was a relief. Stories were interesting. Provocative. The writing captured much of the complexity of human emotions. Although I would not reread or listen again, I would be interested in the author's future works.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Johanna R Marcusky
  • 2019-07-24

Ingenious

As an avid reader/listener of nonfiction, I've been moved and taught by many books (Evicted and No Visible Bruises come to mind). No book has affected me like Three Women. The cliché "brutally honest" is the best explanation I can muster. I cannot wait to listen again so I can delve deeper into the lives and the intricacies of the three women (all women, all people) Mrs. Taddeo examines. Stunning.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • wdarling
  • 2019-07-16

Ooof. This. Was. Terrible.

I have so many problems with this book. I was really looking forward to after after reading a few early reviews. What those reviewers described was nothing close to what I read.

I was immediately set off from the prologue. The author reads this herself. With a pronounced lisp. - it might just be me, but listening to a lisp is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

The women. Maggie. Maggie sounds like a spoiled child. She had a crush on a teacher and was rebuffed so she decided to get back at him any way she could. He was acquitted of all charges. Her story wasn’t believable.

Lena. Her story was hard to listen to. She’s in a sexless marriage with boring, reliable Ed, who seems rather uninterested in his wife, so Lena looks up Aaron, an old high school - now married - boyfriend, on FB. They rekindle their physical relationship and this woman thinks it’s love because she finds a guy to French kiss her and after hearing it about a thousand times, we learn that french kissing is all she wants from poor old Ed. Aaron sounds like a dolt. Calls her kid, treats her like shit , has sex with her now and literally bolts as soon as they are done. There is nothing redeeming about Aaron, yet Lena thinks the sun rises and sets on his head. It’s hard to listen to just how desperate Lena is, pining for this painfully less than man, dropping anything and everything (kids included) if Aaron decides he’s got five minutes for a blow job.

Sloane. We’re supposed to believe she’s got everything. Looks, brains, a rich husband and career. Her husband fancies watching his wife have sex with other people and Sloane goes along for the ride. She initiates an encounter with an employee which turns into an ongoing affair which ultimately blows up in her face when the employees wife finds out. Yet somehow Sloane is still the victim. She’s ALWAYS the victim.
I didn’t care what happened to any of these entirely pathetic women.
This book isn’t “groundbreaking”. This isn’t a look into women’s desires. This book took EIGHT YEARS to write? Find a better way to utilize your time then, because this could have been written in quick weekend.
Three desperate, lonely women make bad choices and have sex to please men who don’t treat them with respect.
There. I’ve written this book.

Save your money. This was just awful.

88 of 111 people found this review helpful

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  • NursePicky
  • 2019-08-15

Jumps all over the place

This book went around and around with no resolution or organization. The stories were dead ends. The women were alternated in such a disorganized way I would forget the details before it came back to one. It took half of the next section figuring out who they were talking about. Pointless and annoying to follow.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Fatumah
  • 2019-07-22

Not worth the hype

i could not finish this book. The story line is not something that requires years of journalism but rather one that can be told during an afternoon tea. The book is not about desire. It is misleading to call it one.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • h
  • 2019-07-21

Great journey

Great story but it just ended abruptly with no closure
I wish there was more to the lives of the ladies told here

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-10-15

desire?

These 3 shades of desire all looked the same...a bit pathetic and made light of female desire. Lumping a teenager crush and eventual molestation with the desire of grown experienced women is absurd. And finally, there couldn't be one woman of color or a woman of a different culture, perhaps even a different religion than the 2 Catholics in the book (I am Catholic btw). It just surprised me it took almost 10 yrs ...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sonya Carrasco-Trujillo
  • 2019-09-27

Uhhhhhh no

I think this makes me a bad feminist, but this book was just terrible. It was full on depressing from minute one and the narration made me want to scratch my eyes out. Ladies- it is not this hard to be a strong, empowered, healthy, and also sexual being. Stop it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful