We Were Liars
1 journaler for this copy...
I enjoyed this novel, despite its darker elements. It's told from the viewpoint of Cadence "Cady" Sinclair, oldest granddaughter of the wealthy Harris Sinclair, who owns an island off the Massachusetts coast and has built a house there for each of his three daughters, in addition to the family mansion. The entire clan has summered there for years, even through some marital breakups. As the book opens, Cady is nearly 18 and is returning to the island for the first time in two years... It seems that during her 15th summer, something traumatic happened, leaving her with crippling migraines and significant amnesia about the events of that summer. And to her vast frustration, nobody will talk about it - leaving her to imagine what kind of trauma could do that to her.
But she's looking forward to reuniting with her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and with Johnny's step-brother Gat (with whom Cady is in love), even if it means negotiating her delicate relationship with her mother and the increasing concerns about the stability of her aunts and her aging and now-widowed grandfather.
The narrative switches between past and present, showing how the kids seemed to have truly golden summers together, acting as good friends and even tolerating the younger kids when necessary - no dark secrets there, right? The reader, too, is tempted to imagine what traumatized Cady so badly. And in the current-day part of the story it seems that while the Liars (their name for the four oldest kids) are enjoying being together again, the behavior of the adults is increasingly unsettling, especially as Cady's mother keeps setting strict guidelines about where she can and cannot go. (This is based largely on her dependence on prescription meds to cope with the pain of her migraines, which often flatten her for a day or two at a time, so the mother's concern seems well-founded, but Cady's being rebellious - and that's understandable as well.)
The use of amnesia as a way to force surprises into the story could be clunky, but I think it's handled pretty well here, with Cady gradually beginning to remember snippets and - eventually - to put them together. This re-casts many episodes in a very different light, but I don't want to say more as this is the kind of story that is most rewarding when discovered in order, so no spoilers from me! I will say that it kept me involved, kept me guessing, and took me through some impressive emotional shifts - not a comfortable read, but one that I'd recommend.
I also enjoyed the way Cady would insert fairytale-retellings here and there, to find different ways to describe the relationships between her mother and aunts, whether in a "King Lear" kind of setup or a "Beauty and the Beast" version.
[There's a short TV Tropes page on the book, with some interesting tidbits, but do beware of spoilers. And there's a prequel, Family of Liars.]
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