Three Women

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About The Book

“Extraordinary…A nonfiction literary masterpiece…I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

“The most in-depth look at the female sex drive that’s been published in decades.” —New York

“[An] instant feminist classic...Utterly engrossing...Game-changing.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Three Women will be whispered about around pools from coast to coast.” —Town & Country

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
J. Waite

Lisa Taddeo has contributed to New York magazine, EsquireElleGlamour, 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.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (July 2019)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451642315

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Raves and Reviews

“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

“Taddeo spent a decade immersed in the sex lives of three ordinary American woman. . . . The result is the most in-depth look at the female sex drive and all its accompanying social, emotional, reproductive, and anthropological implications that’s been published in decades. But it’s also fully immersive: gonzo journalism without the machismo.”
New York

“This nonfiction look at the sex lives of three American women will be whispered about around pools from coast to coast.”
Town & Country

“[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

“A deeply reported, elegantly written, almost uncomfortably intimate portrait of three American women . . . Taddeo reveals something universal in each of their stories . . . The result is a nonfiction book that feels as close to its subjects as a novel, like Adrien Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family, or Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.”
—Matt Haber, Columbia Journalism Review

“What makes Three Women so remarkable and indelible, and also so refreshingly out-of-step with the tenor of the present moment, is Taddeo’s refusal to judge these ‘characters.’ She is not particularly interested in determining who is right, who is wrong, and who is to blame. Intensity and compulsion draw her to these stories like tractor beams. What most fascinates her is how sexual desire transfigures the entire tissue of a personality and changes the course of lives.”
—Laura Miller, Slate

“A revolutionary look at women’s desire, this feat of journalism reveals three women who are carnal, brave, and beautifully flawed.”
People (Book of the Week)

“The protagonists in Lisa Taddeo’s new book, Three Women, are not unusual in their complicated sexual histories; what makes their stories revolutionary is the exquisite candor with which Taddeo gives them voice. In the tradition of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family or Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Taddeo’s book—her first—is a work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy. Taddeo spent years with the subjects of Three Women, and the investment pays off. . . . She seamlessly weaves together everyday details and startlingly intimate moments into narratives that feel as real, as vital, as the pulse in your wrist. . . . As the three women’s tales alternate, Taddeo narrates with a magically light touch, inhabiting each so fully we feel as if we’re living alongside them. The book is sexually explicit—you might blush when reading it—but it never feels gratuitous or clinical. Its prose is gorgeous, nearly lyrical as it describes the longings and frustrations that propel these ordinary women. Blending the skills of an ethnographer and a poet, Taddeo renders them extraordinary.”
—Kate Tuttle, NPR

Three Women explores female desire in intimate detail, creating an emotionally charged work of nonfiction that’s as propulsive as any thriller.”
The A.V. Club

“Three Women is a battle cry. . . . Taddeo never judges. She doesn’t slip into pseudopsychological frameworks for sex. She inhabits her subjects. And if you think her topic sounds a little louche, or isn’t quite your thing, the true magic of this book may lie less in the subject matter and more in the style. . . . It’s the literary brilliance of the book that will knock you back–how she channels these women’s voices through her own. . . . For anyone who thinks they know what women want, this book is an alarm, and its volume is turned all the way up.”
—Lea Carpenter, Time

“The hype for Three Women is real. In fact, it’s insufficient. . . .  Each sentence glows with an insight you won’t want to forget.”
—Elena Nicolaou, Refinery29

“Searing . . . The stories of Taddeo’s subjects, Sloane, Lina and Maggie, all feature the illicit—threesomes, dominance and submission, underage sex—and each includes a hefty dose of good old-fashioned adultery. . . . The result is effective and affecting. . . . Taddeo reveals an avalanche of evidence, as if we needed more, that the cozy comforts of marriage and its defining, confining attribute, monogamy, provide the perfect petri dish for combustible sex—with someone other than your spouse.”
New York Times Book Review

“Intensively reported . . . An immersion course in the rituals and consciousness of individuals expressing their desires . . . You come away disturbed, entertained, jolted, and ultimately longing for a cigarette.”
—Boris Kachka, Vulture

“A riveting page-turner that explores desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance.” 
The Washington Post

“Revealing . . . Taddeo has created a work of nonfiction that unfolds like an intriguing beach read. . . . We’re privy to their deepest insecurities and most vivid sexual encounters.”
—Maris Kreizman, The Wall Street Journal

“Captivating, discomfiting, voyeuristic . . . You’ll want to pass your copy on to a friend as soon as you’ve read it; it’s a book that begs discussion.” 
—Vanity Fair

“An extraordinary book . . . In weaving these stories together, Taddeo paints an electrifying picture of female desire, and of the pain men casually inflict in their pursuit of sexual pleasure. She writes in searing prose that seems to capture every nuance. . . . At times there are biblical resonances to the prose. This seems entirely appropriate in work that is intended to capture the primal, scorching, life-changing power of sexual desire amid the banality of our daily lives. It doesn’t just aim. It succeeds. Three Women is an astonishing act of imaginative empathy and a gift to women around the world who feel their desires are ignored and their voices aren’t heard. This is a book that blazes, glitters, and cuts to the heart of who we are. I’m not sure a book can do much more.”
The Sunday Times (UK)

“The hottest book of the summer . . . Taddeo spent eight years reporting this groundbreaking book, moving across the country and back again in her staggeringly intimate foray into the sexual lives and desires of three ‘ordinary’ women. Tragedy and despair lurk in each of their stories, but Taddeo’s dynamic writing brings them all to breathtaking life.”
Entertainment Weekly

“If it is not the best book about women and desire that has ever been written, then it is certainly the best book about the subject that I have ever come across. When I picked it up, I felt I’d been waiting half my life to read it; when I put it down, it was as though I had been disemboweled. . . . There isn’t a woman alive who won’t recognize—her stomach lurching, her heart beating wildly—something of what Maggie, Lina, and Sloane go through.”
—Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

“Taddeo has a strong sense of storytelling, setting hooks in each woman’s early chapters before circling back and unfolding their narratives with greater depth. Her short, punchy sentences, eye for telling details, and the wellsprings of conveyed emotion make for a charged, heady read. . . . Taddeo makes palpable the pangs of yearning, and how it can feel to have one’s needs long go unfulfilled and then at last satisfied.”
—Laura Adamczyk, The A.V. Club

Three Women is an extraordinary piece of nonfiction—a page-rippingly intimate and compelling narration of the desires and sexual proclivities of three real women, how those desires and proclivities were shaped, and the ways in which their communities and society judge them. . . . She does not sensationalize, but nor is she coy; the narrative crackles with visceral details of eroticism: blood, semen, plucking nipple hairs before a date. The result feels like a new genre—as a reader, I frequently forgot that I wasn’t immersed in fiction—and is already one of the most talked-about books of the year.”
The Times (UK)

“A heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece, Three Women is destined to join the canon both of journalistic excellence and feminist literature.”
Esquire

“Taddeo is stellar at embodying the women, taking on the voice of each in turn. It produces a feeling that the reader is sitting down over coffee to listen to the deeply personal and frequently painful stories of Maggie, Lina, and Sloane. . . . With the disparate threads of these stories, Taddeo weaves complex connections between her subjects' desires.”
—Bryn Greenwood, The Washington Post

“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

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

“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

“Taddeo braids together the women’s narratives, which adds both suspense and heft as their desire-biographies echo and diverge. Her distinct proximity to her subjects shows in the intimate fantasies, scorching encounters, and profound pains they relate through her, but, the power resting fully with them, this never becomes voyeuristic. Instead, she allows them to be defined not by their jobs, kids, or, significantly, the men in their lives, but by a deep and essential part of themselves. Readers will almost certainly fly through this, and want to talk about it.”
Booklist (starred review)

“This is an unusual, startling, and gripping debut. It feels to me like the kind of bold, timely, once-in-a-generation book that every house should have a copy of, and probably will before too long.” 
—Megan Nolan, The New Statesman

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 

“A master class in empathy, Lisa Taddeo’s revelatory work of narrative nonfiction is already shaping up to be a feminist touchstone for years to come. . . . At once epic and intimate, Three Women is an essential exploration of female desire and its consequences in a patriarchal society.”
Harper’s Bazaar

“Taddeo spent eight years studying the emotional landscape of three women as it related to their love and sex lives. What results is a book more engrossing than any soap—a book that pays deep and solemn attention to the link between a woman’s body and heart, and her sense of self.”
Refinery29

“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

Three Women is the honest portrayal of female desire that 2019 demands.”
Marie Claire

Three Women is my favorite kind of non-fiction: absorbing, narratively compelling, and replete with portrayals of complete humans. Lisa Taddeo spent eight years with the three women whose stories she tells here, and the resulting portrait of their sex lives is completely riveting.”
—Jessie Gaynor, Lit Hub

“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 

“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”

“Taddeo takes readers inside the lives of three women whose lives were profoundly influenced by choices they made regarding sexuality. Written in beautiful prose, Taddeo’s take makes the nonfiction stories come alive in a collection you won’t be able to put down.”
Newsweek

“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.”
—Shelf Awareness

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews

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