Lisa Taddeo chronicles the desires of “Three Women” – lands Showtime series
Sex. People may not discuss it in public, but practically everyone, regardless of age, thinks about it and likes to read about it. Now, thanks to the herculean efforts of journalist Lisa Taddeo, we have Three Women, a new book that explores the sex lives and passions of three very different women. It has been described as the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written and one of the most anticipated books of the year.
Taddeo is an award-winning journalist whose short fiction has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and has been published in New York magazine, Esquire, Playboy, McSweeney’s, Granta, and The Sewanee Review, among others. A profile she wrote for New York magazine on Rachel Uchitel, the woman involved in the Tiger Woods sex scandal, brought her to the attention of Jofie Ferrari-Adler, a book editor.
“He wanted me to write a nonfiction book in the vein of Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbor’s Wife. When I agreed to do it, I had no idea it would take over my life.” Men’s desires have always come first, but Taddeo’s book is an assertion of women’s desires and how they relate to a society that men have always dominated. Men’s desires seem to be much clearer: Men do not merely want. Men need.
“Over the course of the eight years it took to write this book, I drove across country six times. I spent thousands of hours with the women in this book—in person, on the phone, by text message, and email. I moved to the towns where they lived and settled in as a resident so I could better understand their day-to-day lives.
“I talked to about 25 men and women before narrowing it down to the final three. Originally I was going to include men. I posted signs explaining what I was looking for: Stories about desire, unrequited love, something that had a beginning, middle, and an end. I was looking for people with a real depth of emotion.”
In the end Taddeo decided to focus on women, since she felt the men were more evasive with their responses. The book tells the stories of Maggie, Lina, and Sloane. Maggie is a young adult from North Dakota, bearing the dreadful consequences of having had a teenage affair with her high school teacher. Lina, from Indiana, is a neglected housewife with a life of prosaic unhappiness, whose unrealized passion finally finds an outlet when an old flame reappears. Sloane is a glamorous restaurateur in Rhode Island whose chef husband enjoys watching her have sex with other people. Each has encountered desire in an unremarkable but life-shattering way. Their narratives are presented in alternating chapters.
“Their stories were all very deep and raw,” says Taddeo. “These women let me into their lives for a period of time; they had this depth of emotion and the stories unfolded in front of my eyes.”
When the research was over Taddeo decided it was time to find a permanent place to live with her husband and young daughter. “I was tired of moving around,” Taddeo says. “We were living in Boston, where I was finishing up the book and decided to get my MFA in fiction at Boston University. We began to think about where we might settle and we toured Litchfield County, where my husband had gone to boarding school. It was quiet and serene and just the kind of place where I wanted to be.”
Published in July, Three Women is an instant success, landing at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as countless others. It has earned endorsements from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Elizabeth Gilbert. And, after a lively bidding war, Showtime is creating an adaptation of the book with a series commitment.
Taddeo is now finishing up her first novel, which will be published next summer. Like many authors, she is loath to talk about the book, “The reader needs to discover them and not have them described by me.”