Left to right: Lisa Taddeo and Claire Dederer at The Elliott Bay Book Company 
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Left to right: Lisa Taddeo and Claire Dederer at The Elliott Bay Book Company
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Three women, many stories about sex and desire

Author Lisa Taddeo was getting questions, such as, “What the f**k are you doing in the middle of Indiana?”

She was reporting, but she wasn’t sure where it was going. She had talked to dozens of women across the United States about sex and desire. From thousands of hours of interviews, she found her way to the stories of three of her subjects. To protect their identities, she gave them aliases.

“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,” Taddeo said.

Maggie was a teen from North Dakota. She’d alleged having a secret affair with her former high school teacher, a man who would later be named the state’s Teacher of the Year. That was before the trial.

Then there was Lina whose husband had withdrawn affection. She hooked up with an old high school boyfriend, usually in his car. She became obsessed with him.

“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,” Taddeo said.

Finally, there was Sloane, a glamorous, successful woman living on an island in the Northeast. Her husband liked to watch her having sex with other people.

“Occasionally there are two couples on a bed, but mostly it’s him watching her, on video or in person, with another man,” Taddeo said.

Sloane’s story is complicated by the question of who controlled this dynamic, who was in power?

The themes could be the stuff of tabloid fodder, but Taddeo has received praise for making a nuanced study of the lives of her subjects over eight years. The result is her debut book “Three Women.”

Lisa Taddeo is a Boston-based journalist. She was interviewed by acclaimed Seattle-area author Claire Dederer at The Elliott Bay Book Company on July 12.

Please note: This recording contains unedited language of an adult nature.

Related episode: Claire Dederer reads from and discusses her memoir “Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning.”