Big Little Lies Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 73-page guide for “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 84 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Pain of Lying and the Healing Power of the Truth and Domestic Violence Awareness: It Can Happen to Anyone.
Published in 2014, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies is a work of contemporary fiction set in the Pirriwee Peninsula, located in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, Australia. Through the perspective of multiple characters, Big Little Lies addresses subjects including bullying, lying, parenting, friendship, and domestic violence. Big Little Lies was adapted into an award-winning television drama of the same name.
The first chapter foreshadows a school trivia night gone awry. The details of the incident remain unclear. Testimonials from various members of the community appear throughout the chapters, revealing that a member of the community was murdered that night. The plot of Big Little Lies tells what happened in the six months leading up to the trivia night.
Madeline, an assertive, middle-aged suburban mom, sprains her ankle while taking her daughter to school. The woman driving behind Madeline—a young single mom named Jane—pulls over and checks on Madeline. The two become fast friends. Madeline relates to Jane’s situation as a single mom. Madeline’s first husband, Nathan, walked out on her and their daughter, Abigail, years ago. Nathan is remarried to a woman named Bonnie now, and the two live in the area, which irritates Madeline. Jane tells Madeline a dark secret: Jane’s son Ziggy was conceived after a man named Saxon Banks assaulted her. Jane never saw the man again and grapples with the traumatic memory.
Madeline introduces Jane to her good friend, Celeste, a beautiful woman married to a wealthy banker, Perry. Celeste has twin boys, Josh and Max, who will be in the same kindergarten class as Madeline and Jane’s children. On school orientation day, all begins cheerful and happy as the children get out of class. Amabella, the daughter of the high-strung Renata, however, accuses Ziggy of hurting her. Ziggy denies bullying Amabella, and there is no evidence that he did, but it nevertheless causes a rift at the school. Renata and her friends become critical of Jane and her son. They gossip about Jane and start a petition to suspend Ziggy . Madeline takes Jane’s side, angry that parents are making a boy feel singled out at school when there’s no proof he did anything. A student continues to bully Amabella, but the parents don’t know who is responsible.
Secretly, Perry is violent with Celeste. Celeste contemplates leaving her husband but is afraid of the consequences. She visits a therapist who helps her make plans to leave. Celeste rents an apartment in a nearby area but waits to move in.
Everyone becomes increasingly agitated that the school bully remains at large. At first, Jane worries that Ziggy really is the bully, as his father was a violent man. After taking Ziggy to a child psychologist, and continuing to see Ziggy’s kind demeanor, Jane becomes confident that isn’t the case. Jane asks Ziggy if he knows who is bullying Amabella, and he reveals that Max—one of Celeste’s twin boys—is the bully. Jane goes to trivia night with this surprising information.
As Celeste gets ready for trivia night, her other son, Josh, tells Celeste the same thing: Max is the bully. Celeste is shocked. Perry tells Celeste he knows she rented an apartment and plans to leave him. The couple argues in the car before going into the trivia night. Perry cries, trying to manipulate Celeste, claiming he’ll change. Celeste has heard it all before. She tells him it’s over, but the two of them still head into trivia night together.
At the trivia night, several characters go to the balcony. Jane and Celeste share what they know about Max with Renata, who apologizes to Jane. When Perry comes out to the balcony, Jane recognizes him as Saxon Banks and confronts him. He ignores her, infuriating Celeste. Celeste throws her drink at Perry, and he instinctively hits her. Everyone is stunned. Bonnie shoves Perry away from Celeste. The balcony is slick from rain, and Perry falls off the balcony to his death. Before they call the ambulance, the group collectively agrees to lie so Bonnie won’t get in trouble. Bonnie tells the truth and is convicted of manslaughter. She avoids jail time.
The crisis brings everyone together. Madeline becomes more accepting of Bonnie and Nathan, Ziggy is vindicated, and Jane heals emotionally and starts dating again. Celeste moves to the apartment and starts working again. She even speaks at a conference about domestic violence.