A Review of the Novel "3"
by Kristine Hawes
The first threesome I ever participated in was the first sex I
ever had. When you are fourteen, a threesome is all about fucking,
licking, cock, pussy, and DAMN! that wonderful feeling right there!
Threesomes are certainly not about love. The three of us met,
we fucked, and we never really saw each other again. It wasn't
until I was in my twenties that I realized how odd a threesome
was for your first sexual encounter, and how odd it was not to
have emotional baggage associated with a threesome. In Julie Hilden's
book, "3", she takes the fiery sex of three naked bodies
and wraps it up into devastating emotional and obsessive vignettes.
This is not fourteen-year-old sex -- not by a long shot.
up in the sensual mystique of threesomes are the ever-present
questions that women ask themselves: what does it mean to fuck
someone who isn't your "partner", what is commitment,
and what are our boundaries? Ms. Hilden's book examines the balance
of intense physical desire with the emotional need for love and
acceptance in such a way as to be oddly passionate and deeply
disturbing at the same time.
and Ilan, the main relationship in "3", seem to have
the perfect college-love relationship until Maya discovers Ilan's
extra-relationship affairs. In order to continue their relationship,
Maya makes an extreme relationship bargain: She'll allow Ilan
his extramarital affairs if he never chooses a partner without
her and she always is present during the liaisons. My first shock
of the story was that this was Maya's suggestion, not Ilan's.
My feminist point of view is challenged: Doesn't she have enough
self-confidence to leave the bastard? Then I am challenged once
again at Ilan's cajoling and Maya's quick acquiescence:
you marry me?" he asks.
"No, Not this way."
"Maya, you just explained, this is the only way I can be.
And you're right. Don't you love me?"
"Of course I do."
"Then marry me. The only obstacle is gone. You took it away.
Please, marry me."
"All right," I say quietly. It is a flaw in me; I love
that surrendering moment.
the story, which is told completely through Maya's point of view,
I was captivated by her naïve examination of the world and
Maya's excruciatingly detailed view of her motivations. At times
I wanted to shake her out of her apathy and at others, wallow
with her in grief. She is a character that is so self-examining
that she seems to not see the bigger picture that Ms. Hilden paints
of best contrasts of the book is the sexual obsession of Ilan
and the emotional obsession of Maya. They perform an odd balancing
act that on the surface seems completely unrelated. This is paralleled
in their writing careers, in their desires, and in the relationship
itself. While Ilan's obsession with items dangerous leads them
down a road toward physical breakdown, Maya's obsession with acceptance
seems to actually pave that road.
we please stop?" I ask him. I blurt it out. I wanted never
to challenge him. But I can't help it.
"You know what."
"I thought we talked about this a long time ago. We went
through this. We decided it together."
"But I didn't think it would be like this. I feel like I'm
losing myself. Like I don't even have a self, I just do what you
"Which excites you." He raises his eyebrows at me, smug.
"We shouldn't have done the thing with Jennifer. You should
have made me do it."
"You seemed to like it at the time. I see you with these
women, Maya. You pretend it's just for me but I know you like
it. It makes me jealous how much you like it, but I still let
you. Isn't it exciting, to have new desires -- to change? That's
why we're alive, isn't it?"
He kicks his feet up on the table and leans back casually as he
"I tried to change," he tells me, "and I couldn't.
I'm not as lucky as you… Let me show you who you are. Experiment
with me a little. I want to try something else with you."
is no mere chronicle about three people fucking and living happily
ever after. Truthfully, it's not a book I would even classify
as typical erotica. While "3" is about sex and sexual
acts, it is a complex story about how obsessions can become so
binding as to choke out the life of their givers. This book is
a dark look at the emotional and mental workings of fetish, desire,
Hilden's apparently pristine background as a Harvard Law student
does not show through in this account at all; her sexual encounters
are raw and detailed without being brutal. Her characters have
honest dimension. For obvious reasons, we associate most closely
with Maya; yet, Hilden clearly delivers a real sense of Ilan's
desperate desire to please his father, to feel intensity, and
the gravity of his need through Maya's observations:
that we are on the dream platform is the only way I can tolerate
the women now -- endure watching their pleasure as Ilan, inside
them, presses so hard that it seems as if he wants to seal his
flesh to theirs.
there is an intensity and freshness to the darkness (if darkness
can ever be called "fresh"), there was at least one
cliché that was tiresome. Maya entangles herself with a
woman named Karen who seems to be the epitome of the "Lesbian
Girlfriend." When the relationship turns "Basic Instinct",
you know how it will end. Even though these clichés existed,
they do not seem to deaden the fear and repulsion you have for
I liked the story's complexity and the intense sexual encounters,
I would not pick up this book as a sexual stimulant. Many of the
feelings that Maya encountered were too similar to my own demons.
I closed the back cover with a sense of relief: glad to have read
the story and glad to be out of it. However, that is the sign
of good art -- it makes you feel something personal and captivating.
I think that "3" forces the reader to take a close look
at his or her personal relationship motivations and fears. It
begs the question: could you survive the same?
Review of the Novel "3"
2003 Kristine Hawes