Three Women by Lisa TaddeoThree Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women

byLisa Taddeo

Hardcover | July 9, 2019

Pricing and Purchase Info

$20.31 online 
$36.00 list price save 43%
Earn 102 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Quantity:

In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores

about

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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

“Taddeo spent eight years reporting this groundbreaking book....Breathtaking....Staggeringly intimate.” Entertainment Weekly

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

“A dazzling achievement...Three Women burns a flare-bright path through the dark woods of women’s sexuality.” Los Angeles Times

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.
Title:Three WomenFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:320 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1 inShipping dimensions:9.25 × 6.25 × 1 inPublished:July 9, 2019Publisher:Avid Reader Press / Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1451642296

ISBN - 13:9781451642292

Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from #dislike #bookstagram #feminist #salacious #exploitedbymen #challengingread #narrativenonfiction I had so much high expectations for this book. So disappointing.
Date published: 2019-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Read on Female Desire This book was an interesting read regarding female desire. It is fiction based on interviews with the subjects but reads as non fiction. You do feel rather voyeuristic reading about what these women experienced. The sex scenes are quite graphic and detailed. I wish there was more diversity in the female voices, out of the three women, one woman could have been a person of colour.
Date published: 2019-08-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Must-Read, and hopefully the first of many THREE WOMEN starts with a winningly simple premise: a look at the love-lives of three (more or less average) American Women at unique places in their lives. It follows through in incredible fashion thanks to the writing of Lisa Taddeo. It became clear only a few chapters in - really, by the time I was done the foreword - that this was a must-read for readers of all types. It's an absolute pleasure to read as Lisa Taddeo builds her descriptions of the women and their worlds, and takes us through the hows and whys and what-nexts of their lives and loves. I can't give enough praise for the writing. Taddeo's prose acts as a spotlight sweeping across the heart, keying readers in to the intimate details of romances and affairs while also acknowledging that for as much as we can write about it, the truth about desire is that it is a subject that will always be shrouded in mystery - why do we want what we want, and what does it do to us? Taddeo maintains a journalistic distance while still giving readers what feels like genuine access to the women's hearts and minds in a way that is neither apologetic for their actions, nor judgmental. The book effortlessly dignifies all the pain and passion and longing it depicts without being sensational, or overly skittish about the subject matter. For a reader such as myself - who has very little in common with these women - it was fascinating, heart-breaking, and yes, a little voyeuristic. I found myself both a tourist in these women's lives and as an unwitting stand-in for the men who may be wronging them at any time. In taking on this project, the author has opened up avenues that I hope are explored further in future works whether in her own work or in those of other writers; I'd love similar approaches to relationships of all sorts of different demographics and dynamics. This book deserves to be the first of its own genre.
Date published: 2019-07-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Three Women is an interesting take on nonfiction that reads like fiction. Three Women is a true story based on the sex lives of three American women gained through a decade of vigilant reporting. Readers follows three women as they are faced with different challenges and issues within their lives. It is an intimate look at female desire in all its complexities. Taddeo’s writing style mirrors that of a stream of consciousness technique. This style allows for Three Women to read as fiction as readers explore almost all aspects of these women’s lives. I enjoyed the narrative while simultaneously disliking it. I was able to jump into these women’s lives easily and sympathize with their plights. However, it made reading Three Women long and cumbersome. At times, there is too much detail slowing down the narratives. Maggie becomes involved with her high school English teacher. Maggie’s story is heart wrenching and a prime example of misogyny, patriarchy, and the delicate balance of power teachers has over their high school students. Her story is hard to read as Taddeo outlines clearly the ways Maggie was groomed and manipulated. Rape comes in many different forms, not just penetration. Even though I criticized the writing style, it works perfectly for Maggie’s narrative as it conveys her innocence and the power imbalance. Lina is in a loveless marriage. Her husband will not kiss her or engage in any sensual activity. Lina then becomes consumed in an affair that allows her own her sensuality and explore undiscovered parts of herself. Sloan is part restaurant owner with her husband who happens to like watching her engage with other men. Sloan explores her sensuality as she navigates the power imbalance between herself and her husband. Overall, Three Women is an interesting take on nonfiction that reads like fiction. Taddeo isn’t here to hold your hand and make sure you understand the purpose of telling these women’s stories. Instead, they stand on their own and what you take from them varies.
Date published: 2019-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Desire explored! Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Ms. Lisa Taddeo for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "Three Women". An extraordinary in-depth account of the sexual lives of three American Women. The motivations, drives and obsessive behaviours come alive in this report style read. Ms. Taddeo followed these women for several years as she chronicled their sexual pursuits...the good, the bad and the very private with no flourishes other than the raw truth. As hard as it is to read at times, this is a story that screams to be heard! The women tell their stories openly and frankly while coming to terms with how their sexual lifestyle, their sexual needs influenced the choices they made. We also discover how disappointingly other women view these three...from close friends and relatives to public opinions. This is a startling story that shows us just how far women still need to go to find their sexual stride, rights and place in our ever tightening misogynistic society. 4 stars Publishing July 9, 2019 #NetGalley #ThreeWomen #LisaTaddeo #feministread #sexabuse
Date published: 2019-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An absolute feminist read Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Ms. Lisa Taddeo for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "Three Women". An extraordinary in-depth account of the sexual lives of three American Women. The motivations, drives and obsessive behaviours come alive in this report style read. Ms. Taddeo followed these women for several years as she chronicled their sexual pursuits...the good, the bad and the very private with no flourishes other than the raw truth. As hard as it is to read at times, this is a story that screams to be heard! The women tell their stories openly and frankly while coming to terms with how their sexual lifestyle, their sexual needs influenced the choices they made. We also discover how disappointingly other women view these three...from close friends and relatives to public opinions. This is a startling story that shows us just how far women still need to go to find their sexual stride, rights and place in our ever tightening misogynistic society. 4 stars Publishing July 9, 2019 #NetGalley #ThreeWomen #LisaTaddeo #feministread #sexabuse
Date published: 2019-07-04

From the Author

“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.

Read from the Book

Three Women prologue When my mother was a young woman a man used to follow her to work every morning and masturbate, in step behind her. My mother had only a fifth-grade education and a dowry of medium-grade linen dish towels, but she was beautiful. It’s still the first way I think of to describe her. Her hair was the color of the chocolates you get in the Tirolean Alps and she always wore it the same way—short curls piled high. Her skin was not olive like her family’s but something all its own, the light rose of inexpensive gold. Her eyes were sarcastic, flirtatious, brown. She worked as the main cashier at a fruit and vegetable stand in the center of Bologna. This was on the Via San Felice, a long thoroughfare in the fashion district. There were many shoe stores, goldsmiths, perfumeries, tobacconists, and clothing stores for women who did not work. My mother would pass these boutiques on the way to her job. She would look into the windows at the fine leather of the boots and the burnished necklaces. But before she came into this commercial zone she would have a quiet walk from her apartment, down little carless streets and alleys, past the locksmith and the goat butcher, through lonely porticoes filled with the high scent of urine and the dark scent of old water pooling in stone. It was through these streets that the man followed her. Where had he first seen her? I imagine it was at the fruit stand. This beautiful woman surrounded by a cornucopia of fresh produce—plump figs, hills of horse chestnuts, sunny peaches, bright white heads of fennel, green cauliflower, tomatoes on the vine and still dusty from the ground, pyramids of deep purple eggplant, small but glorious strawberries, glistening cherries, wine grapes, persimmons—plus a random selection of grains and breads, taralli, friselle, baguettes, some copper pots for sale, bars of cooking chocolate. He was in his sixties, large-nosed and balding, with a white pepper growth across his sunken cheeks. He wore a newsboy cap like all the other old men who walked the streets with their canes on their daily camminata. One day he must have followed her home because on a clear morning in May my mother walked out the heavy door of her apartment building from darkness into sudden light—in Italy nearly every apartment house has dark hallways, the lights dimmed and timed to cut costs, the sun blocked by the thick, cool stone walls—and there was this old man she had never seen, waiting for her. He smiled and she smiled back. Then she began her walk to work, carrying an inexpensive handbag and wearing a calf-length skirt. Her legs, even in her old age, were absurdly feminine. I can imagine being inside this man’s head and seeing my mother’s legs and following them. One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would. She could sense his presence behind her for many blocks, past the olive seller and the purveyor of ports and sherries. But he didn’t merely follow. At a certain corner, when she turned, she caught a movement out of the side of her eye. The stone streets were naked at that hour, in the toothache of dawn, and she turned to see he had his penis, long, thin, and erect, out of his pants, and that he was rapidly exercising it, up and down, with his eyes on her in such a steady manner that it seemed possible that what was happening below his waist was managed by an entirely different brain. She was frightened then, but years after the fact the fear of that first morning was bleached into sardonic amusement. For the months that followed, he would appear outside her apartment several mornings a week, and eventually he began to accompany her from the stand back to her home as well. At the height of their relationship, he was coming twice a day behind her. My mother is dead now, so I can’t ask her why she allowed it, day after day. I asked my older brother, instead, why she didn’t do something, tell someone. It was Italy, the 1960s. The police officers would have said, Ma lascialo perdere, e un povero vecchio. E una meraviglia che ha il cazzo duro a sua età. Leave it alone, he’s a poor old man. It’s a miracle he can get it up at his age. My mother let this man masturbate to her body, her face, on her walk to work and on her walk back. She was not the type of woman to take pleasure in this. But I can’t know for sure. My mother never spoke about what she wanted. About what turned her on or off. Sometimes it seemed that she didn’t have any desires of her own. That her sexuality was merely a trail in the woods, the unmarked kind that is made by boots trampling tall grass. And the boots belonged to my father. My father loved women in a way that used to be considered charming. He was a doctor who called the nurses sugar if he liked them and sweetheart if he did not. Above all, he loved my mother. His attraction to her was evident in a way that still makes me uncomfortable to recall. While I never had occasion to wonder about my father’s desire, something in the force of it, in the force of all male desire, captivated me. Men did not merely want. Men needed. The man who followed my mother to and from work every day needed to do so. Presidents forfeit glory for blow jobs. Everything a man takes a lifetime to build he may gamble for a moment. I have never entirely subscribed to the theory that powerful men have such outsize egos that they cannot suppose they will ever be caught; rather, I think that the desire is so strong in the instant that everything else—family, home, career—melts down into a little liquid cooler and thinner than semen. Into nothing. As I began to write this book, a book about human desire, I thought I’d be drawn to the stories of men. Their yearnings. The way they could overturn an empire for a girl on bended knee. So I began by talking to men: to a philosopher in Los Angeles, a schoolteacher in New Jersey, a politician in Washington, D.C. I was indeed drawn to their stories the way one is drawn to order the same entrée from a Chinese restaurant menu again and again. The philosopher’s story, which began as the story of a good-looking man whose less beautiful wife did not want to sleep with him, with all the attendant miserly agonies of dwindling passion and love, turned into the story of a man who wanted to sleep with the tattooed masseuse he saw for his back pain. She says she wants to run away with me to Big Sur, he texted early one bright morning. The next time we met I sat across from him at a coffee shop as he described the hips of the masseuse. His passion didn’t seem dignified in the wake of what he had lost in his marriage; rather, it seemed perfunctory. The men’s stories began to bleed together. In some cases, there was prolonged courting; sometimes the courting was closer to grooming; but mostly, the stories ended in the stammering pulses of orgasm. And whereas the man’s throttle died in the closing salvo of the orgasm, I found that the woman’s was often just beginning. There was complexity and beauty and violence, even, in the way the women experienced the same event. In these ways and more, it was the female parts of an interlude that, in my eyes, came to stand for the whole of what longing in America looks like. Of course, female desire can be just as bullish as male desire, and when desire was propulsive, when it was looking for an end it could control, my interest waned. But the stories wherein desire was something that could not be controlled, when the object of desire dictated the narrative, that was where I found the most magnificence, the most pain. It resembled pedaling a bicycle backward, the agony and futility and, finally, the entry into another world altogether. • • • To find these stories, I drove across the country six times. I loosely plotted my stops. Mostly I would land somewhere like Medora, North Dakota. I would order toast and coffee and read the local paper. I found Maggie this way. A young woman being called whore and fat cunt by women even younger than herself. There had been an alleged relationship with her married high school teacher. The fascinating thing, in her account, was the absence of intercourse. As she related it, he’d performed oral sex on her and didn’t let her unzip his jeans. But he’d placed manila-yellow Post-it notes in her favorite book, Twilight. Next to passages about an enduring bond between two star-crossed lovers, he’d drawn parallels to their own relationship. What moved this young woman, what made her feel exalted, was the sheer number of the notes and how detailed they were. She could hardly believe that the teacher she so deeply admired had read the whole book, let alone taken the time to write such insightful commentary, as though he were conducting an advanced placement class on vampire lovers. He had, too, she recounted, sprayed the pages with his cologne, knowing she loved the way he smelled. To receive such notes, to experience such a relationship, and then to have it abruptly end: I could easily imagine the gaping hole that would leave. I came across Maggie’s story when things were going from bad to worse. She struck me as a woman whose sexuality and sexual experiences were being denied in a horrific way. I will be telling the narrative as seen through her eyes; meanwhile a version of this story was put before a jury who saw it very differently. Part of her narrative poses for the reader the all-too-familiar question of when and why and by whom women’s stories are believed—and when and why and by whom they are not. • • • Throughout history, men have broken women’s hearts in a particular way. They love them or half-love them and then grow weary and spend weeks and months extricating themselves soundlessly, pulling their tails back into their doorways, drying themselves off, and never calling again. Meanwhile, women wait. The more in love they are and the fewer options they have, the longer they wait, hoping that he will return with a smashed phone, with a smashed face, and say, I’m sorry, I was buried alive and the only thing I thought of was you, and feared that you would think I’d forsaken you when the truth is only that I lost your number, it was stolen from me by the men who buried me alive, and I’ve spent three years looking in phone books and now I have found you. I didn’t disappear, everything I felt didn’t just leave. You were right to know that would be cruel, unconscionable, impossible. Marry me. Maggie was, by her account, ruined by her teacher’s alleged crime, but she had something that the women who are left rarely have. A certain power, dictated by her age and her former lover’s occupation. Maggie’s power, she believed, was ordained by the law of the land. Ultimately, however, it wasn’t. Some women wait because if they don’t, there’s a threat of evanescence. He is the only one, in the moment, whom she believes she will ever desire. The problem can be economic. Revolutions take a long time to reach places where people share more Country Living recipes than articles about ending female subjugation. Lina, a housewife in Indiana who hadn’t been kissed in years, waited to leave her husband because she didn’t have the money to exist apart from him. The spousal support laws in Indiana were not a reality that was available to her. Then she waited for another man to leave his wife. Then she waited some more. The way the wind blows in our country can make us question who we are in our own lives. Often the type of waiting women do is to make sure other women approve, so that they may also approve of themselves. Sloane, a poised restaurant owner, lets her husband watch her fuck other men. Occasionally there are two couples on a bed, but mostly it’s him watching her, on video or in person, with another man. Sloane is beautiful. While her husband watches her fuck other men, a coveted stretch of ocean froths outside the bedroom window. Down the road, Cotswold sheep the color of oatmeal roam. A friend of mine who thought ménage à trois squalid and nearly despicable in the context of a group of swingers I met in Cleveland found Sloane’s story illuminating, raw, relatable. And it’s relatability that moves us to empathize. • • • I think about the fact that I come from a mother who let a man masturbate to her daily, and I think about all the things I have allowed to be done to me, not quite so egregious, perhaps, but not so different in the grand scheme. Then I think about how much I have wanted from men. How much of that wanting was what I wanted from myself, from other women, even; how much of what I thought I wanted from a lover came from what I needed from my own mother. Because it’s women, in many of the stories I’ve heard, who have greater hold over other women than men have. We can make each other feel dowdy, whorish, unclean, unloved, not beautiful. In the end, it all comes down to fear. Men can frighten us, other women can frighten us, and sometimes we worry so much about what frightens us that we wait to have an orgasm until we are alone. We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need. Men did not frighten my mother. Poverty did. She told me another story; though I don’t recall the precise circumstances of the telling, I know she didn’t sit me down. The story wasn’t dispensed over water crackers and rosé. More likely it was Marlboros at the kitchen table, zero windows open, the dog blinking through the smoke at our knees. She would have been Windexing the glass table. The story was about a cruel man she was seeing right before she met my father. My mother had a number of words that intrigued and scared me. Cruel was among them. She grew up very poor, peeing in pots, dotting her freckles with the urine because it was said to diminish the pigment. There was a single room for her, two sisters, and their parents. Rainwater came through the ceiling and dripped onto her face as she slept. She spent nearly two years in a sanatorium with tuberculosis. Nobody visited her, because no one could afford to make the trip. Her father was an alcoholic who worked in the vineyards. A baby brother died before his first birthday. She eventually got out, made it to the city, but just before she did, in the maw of February, her mother fell ill. Stomach cancer. She was admitted to the local hospital, from which there was no coming back. One night there was a snowstorm, sleet smashing against cobblestones, and my mother was with this cruel man when she got word that her mother was dying and would be gone by morning. The cruel man was driving my mother to the hospital through the storm when they got into a terrible fight. My mother didn’t provide details but said it ended with her on the gravel shoulder, in the heavy snow and darkening night. She watched the taillights disappear, no other cars on the frozen road. She didn’t get to be with her mother at the end. To this day I’m not sure what cruel meant, in that context. I don’t know if the man beat my mother, if he sexually assaulted her. I’ve always assumed that cruelty, in her world, involved some sexual threat. In my most gothic imaginings, I picture him trying to get laid the night that her mother was dying. I picture him trying to take a bite out of her side. But it was the fear of poverty and not the cruel man that stayed with her. That she could not call a taxi to get to the hospital. That she lacked agency. Lacked her own means. A year or so after my father died, when we could get through a day without crying, she asked me to show her how to use the internet. She’d never used a computer in her life. Typing one sentence took a painful few minutes. Just tell me what you want, I said, at the end of a day spent in front of the screen. We were both frustrated. I can’t, she said. It’s something I need to do alone. What? I asked. I’d seen everything of hers, all her bills, notes, even the handwritten one she meant for me to find in the event of her sudden death. I want to see about a man, she said quietly. A man I knew before your father. I was stunned, and even hurt. I wanted my mother to be my father’s widow for all time. I wanted the notion of my parents to remain intact, even after death, even at the cost of my mother’s own happiness. I didn’t want to know about my mother’s desire. This third man, the owner of a vast jewelry empire, loved her so much he’d gone to the church to try to stop my parents’ wedding while it was under way. A long time ago, she’d given me a ruby-and-diamond necklace, something she seemed to be giving away to belie how much it was cherished. I told her she could try to figure the computer out herself, but before she could, she got sick. I think about my mother’s sexuality and how she occasionally used it. The little things, the way she made her face up before she left the house or opened the door. To me, it always seemed a strength or a weakness, but never its own pounding heart. How wrong I was. Still, I wonder how a woman could have let a man masturbate behind her back for so many days. I wonder if she cried at night. Perhaps she even cried for the lonely old man. It’s the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments. I set out to register the heat and sting of female want so that men and other women might more easily comprehend before they condemn. Because it’s the quotidian minutes of our lives that will go on forever, that will tell us who we were, who our neighbors and our mothers were, when we were too diligent in thinking they were nothing like us. This is the story of three women.

Editorial Reviews

“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 “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 “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 dazzling achievement . . . Three Women burns a flare-bright path through the dark woods of women’s sexuality. In sentences that are as sharp—and bludgeoning, at times—as an ax, she retains the accuracy and integrity of nonfiction but risks the lyrical depths of prose and poetry.” —Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times “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) “An extraordinary study of female desire . . . To write this kind of nonfiction—it’s true, but reads like a novel—Taddeo smartly employs not only interviews but also diary entries, legal documents, letters, emails and text messages. The result is a book as exhaustively reported and as elegantly written as Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers or Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family. . . . Taddeo’s language is at its best—sublime, even—when she describes the pain of desire left unfulfilled.” —Elizabeth Flock, The Washington Post “Three Women reads like a nonfiction novel in the deeply embedded, richly detailed vein of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. . . . It’s Taddeo’s deep, almost feverish commitment to detail and context that elevates the stories, making them feel not just painfully real but revelatory. In her efforts to explore ‘the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments,’ she actually does much more: By peeling back the layers with such clear-eyed compassion, Taddeo illuminates the essential, elemental mystery of what it is to be a woman in the world.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly “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 “Rather than dealing in cheap titillation, the author crafts engaging narratives. . . . Three Women captures the pain and powerlessness of desire as well as its heady joys.” —The Economist “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) “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