I belong to a book club. We meet once a month throughout the year, taking a break only in July when most people’s summer plans tend to get in the way, and in December when we all go out to dinner in lieu of meeting at somebody’s home and deconstructing our latest read. The group of women who comprise the “membership” are a fantastic bunch. Accomplished and bright women all, each has her own unique brand of grace and charm, and I am honored to call them my friends.
The book on tap for this month’s meeting is Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thompson. He is a local author who lives in our town, and, in fact, he is friends with our hostess for this month, so I’m looking forward to a lively discussion of the book and its genesis. The book was inspired by the case of Stephen Fagan, a Massachusetts attorney who, in 1979, kidnapped his two young daughters and fled the jurisdiction, returning two decades later only after being turned in to authorities.
Here’s the blurb from the back cover of Mr. Thompson’s book:
“Alone in an empty house, Lucy tries to imagine the lives of her two young children. They have been gone for seven years, and she is tormented by the role she played in that heartbreaking loss. You can hardly see a glimpse of the sexy, edgy woman she used to be. Back then, she was a magnet for men like Matt, who loved her beyond reason, and Griffin, who wouldn’t let go but always left her wanting more. Now the lies they told and the choices they made have come to haunt all three of them. With shattering turns, Lies You Wanted to Hear explores the way good people talk themselves into doing terrible, unthinkable things. What happens when we come to believe our own lies? And what price must we pay for our mistakes? A searing story that will leave you wondering what choices you would make, Lies You Wanted to Hear is a stunning debut.”
I just finished the book Thursday and gave it four stars on Goodreads. I really did like the book, but didn’t think it warranted five stars because the ending seemed a little too canned. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it seemed that the author simply wanted to wind up the story. However, without adding another hundred or so pages, it smacks of finding a “realistic” way for the story to end.
While the best books leave us wanting more, and this one did leave me wondering what happened to the cast of characters, ultimately I didn’t believe that either Matt or Lucy would react to the final sequence of events, and that made the denouement a let down. I wanted to learn more about the way Lucy and Matt dealt with the circumstances they created and how they had justified to themselves – not just on a superficial level – their actions. The reader doesn’t get any of the internal dialogues that so often accompanies decisions we know are bad, but within which we are helpless to stop ourselves from engaging.
The trio of central characters are well drawn and both likable and detestable at the same time. In other words, they are complex human beings with many layers and contradictions. I was drawn in quickly and wanted to know more about them, so the read was quick and easy. I hope that Mr. Thompson’s debut novel won’t be the last we see of him. I do recommend this book, but don’t expect satisfaction from the internal character dialogue. As likable as they can be, they don’t seem to be hiding much beneath the surface.
Next up: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.