The Lies We Tell

The Lies We Tell: a novel - Jamie Holland

This had an interesting premise, though the family secret mentioned in the synopsis was not the way I thought it would go.

 

It dealt with a difficult subject: the death of a family member, and how those behind learn to move on and handle things. It was handled with care, certainly: the idea, often expressed in fiction or even by well-meaning people in real life, that you can just move on quickly and pick up your life like nothing changed, like your foundations don't need to be rebuilt, was certainly not part of the makeup of this novel, and that is greatly appreciated.

 

My problems with the book stem not from the care taken on the subject, but from the lack of understanding of the characters. It seemed like we never really got in-depth with them; I certainly never understood them to any real extent. It left my sympathy at surface-sympathy level: I felt bad because this was a bad situation, and I always feel awful for people in bad situations. I didn't really connect with them emotionally enough to feel bad for them.

 

It's not that they were not likeable, strictly--this is certainly a situation in which the importance of likeability flies out the window unless the character's behavior goes really beyond the pale, but that they felt like bundles of quirks without a whatever binds them into a real character. I could make guesses (and unfortunately correct guesses) regarding what their behavior was going to be in any given situation, and they never rose beyond that.

 

The predictability unfortunately also extended to the family secret, which was telegraphed from a ridiculously early point. The real secret seemed to be how it was kept in the dark from our main character, Martie, who somehow managed to be surprised at the end when it was revealed. Perhaps how young she is excuses it, though she seemed a ridiculously young 14, which bothered me throughout, given there was no explanation for it. As far as I can tell, she is not diagnosed with anything that should stunt her so much, especially emotionally, but she definitely feels like she is. Maybe I should be putting it down to her sudden and unexpected loss, but given the year that has passed when the novel opens and the lack of reaction from other characters, it's hard to do, and it feels like questionable writing.

 

In the end, it wasn't a bad book, but it felt rushed and oddly handled, and the secret turned out to be no secret at all by the time it was officially revealed, so it felt like a disappointment.

 

This book was provided to me for free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.