Message in a Bottle
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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There were a number of us on staff that read advance copies of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and the result was plenty of behind-the-counter discussion. When you read it (because you’d be missing out if you don’t), swing by the front desk or get in touch online and let us know your reaction.  We’re curious to hear what our customers think, especially since we continue to discuss the ending.

Here’s what Nancy, Miriam, and Marni had to say about it. Consider this a starting point for further discussion.

image Nancy: We Were Liars is one of those books which leaves me with an unsettling and lingering feeling, full of a certain unease about the characters and their circumstances. I found the book to be very disturbing on all kinds of levels. There is a dream-like quality to much of the book, which I wasn’t sure if it was from Caddie’s drug-addled brain after the “accident” or something else.

As the beginning of the book suggests there is much hidden darkness in the Sinclair’s closets, which they expend a great deal of energy hiding.  The author’s description of the family homes and their personal lives is a convincing setting for the inevitable demise of the thin veneer that they hold up to shield themselves from the outside world. The depiction of the controlling elder Mr. Sinclair and the effect that he had on his adult daughters felt convincing. 

I was completely taken by surprise at where the book led and what the teenagers were capable of doing. They developed as believable characters and their relationships seemed so realistic that I was totally blown away at the final outcome. It is a tough book to discuss, since hardly any real substance can be mentioned without giving away the mysterywhich is what makes the books such a good read.

image Miriam: This book left me near tears and I found myself thinking about it days later. Discussing these kind of “twist” novels is always challenging because we hate to give away the ending, so I’ll tread lightly here on the blog.

I found the most realistic part of the story was the three adult daughters battling for their inheritance and the way their father manipulated them. I could almost imagine an entirely separate novel told from the daughters’ point of view. That seemed to me where the complex relationships remained.

I liked the use of Cadence’s fairy tales to explore the universal themes of inheritance and parental relationships. It didn’t feel like a current day story, and maybe the fairy tales contributed to that historical feeling. I could almost see the whole story through a sepia lens.

So were Gat and Cadence really in love? Lockhart spends a great deal of time romanticizing their relationship, but as the story wears on it seems like Cadence had quite a few delusions going on. Gat had a girlfriend back home too, and the way he told Cadence that she would never understand what his real life was like made me think her feelings were more one-sided than she believed.

My big question is did you see the ending coming? I wondered if I was blind to the obvious. I read plenty of suspense novels, but I was completely shocked by the ending. I was also surprised what an emotional impact it had on me. I didn’t realize I was invested in the characters until the last fifty pages or so. I keep trying to imagine Cadence’s future and how she’ll live with the knowledge she regained, and I just can’t even fathom it.

image Marni: I read We Were Liars yesterday in one long, fevered session on my deck. It gutted me. Completely. Now I have to ponder on it for a day or two and then read it again…because that’s pretty much required once you know what you end up knowing but you can’t say because it’s twisty and angsty and so unexpected that it sucks the breath out of you.

I found the staccato rhythm of Cady’s narration to be very slowly unnervingI didn’t realize how much it was affecting me, until…UNTIL. I did
briefly think that Gat was not among us anymore, as that seemed like a
reasonable conclusion considering how traumatized Cady wasbut then
the other Liars interacted with him so I knew I was wrong. And then
I wanted to weep-laugh for how truly wrong I was.

And then there’s the whole other storythe powerful, manipulative patriarch and the resentful, fearful, passive-aggressive daughters wielding their powers of manipulation and fear over their own children to fight back against all of the control. The wealth and how it leads to conformity and
suppression and image control. And then you see that as the backdrop
for what these teenagers feel not just compelled but entitled to
dothe self-righteousness of it all.

GUTTED. I am not going to stop thinking about this for a while. WOW.

Marriage is the Ultimate Mystery

Gone GirlYou can often find Marni behind the front counter of Island Books, her honey-colored hair and love for dogs an innocent cover for her reading taste. She’s the other Island Books staffer besides me who gets positively giddy over a good psychological thriller. This became obvious when Marni and I tried to snatch an advanced copy of Tana French’s Broken Harbor out of each others’ hands. In a friendly way, of course. So when she emailed me at the end of March to say “There’s a new mystery/thriller by Gillian Flynn called Gone Girl that you should read. I’m so excited for it to come in so I can sell it!” I knew what needed to be next on my reading list.

I’m limited in what I can say without spoiling Gone Girl, but I will tell you this: no matter how much you think you have the mystery figured out, the second half of the book will blow you away. And if my review here isn’t sufficient to hook you, ask Marni to tell you more about Gone Girl when you drop by the store. Her eyes will light up (as much as if you bring your dog by).

Here’s a book that looks like a classic “the-husband-did-it” thriller. Believably told from alternating points of view (and not all writers can pull this off well, but Flynn does), the story begins when bar owner Nick comes home to find his stay-at-home wife Amy has disappeared, leaving only suspicious signs of a struggle, some tell-tale blood on the kitchen floor, and the back door wide open. As the investigation begins, sections of Amy’s diary written in past tense are interspersed with Nick’s experience in the present as he deals with the aftermath of her disappearance.

Amy tells the story of how they met as young writers in New York, fell in love, and got married. Then the economy turned sour and both lost their jobs, which led to a decision to move back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri to care for his dying mother. Amy’s parents are bestselling authors of a children’s book series called Amazing Amy, which chronicled a fictional version of their daughter as she grew up. Their bestselling work turned Amy into a trust-fund child, and allowed her to loan Nick the money to open a bar with his twin sister, Margo.

The Amy that comes across in the diary is madly in love with her husband and increasingly lonely after they leave New York. She leaves behind warning signs in her narrative that suggest that they struggled in their marriage and Nick has a temper he can’t control. Nick, on the other hand, despite his earnestness over the seriousness of the situation, lies to the police, Amy’s parents, and worst of all, us readers. The media doesn’t like him and his behavior following Amy’s disappearance is suspicious. We can see where this is going. Nick must be the one responsible. The question is why, and how. Or is it?

That’s where the story seems to be going, but then we’re smarter readers than that, aren’t we? The explanation can’t possibly be that simple. Then other suspects begin to pop up, including stalkers from Amy’s past (she’s had a few since she was the inspiration for a popular children’s book character). Her parents seem a little off, too. And then there’s that something that Nick’s sister Margo is hiding…

At this point in the review I’m using all my restraint to keep from dropping the bombshell on you. All I can say is you’ve never met a villain as creepy and distinctive as this one, or an ending that’s as uniquely disturbing. The darkest parts of this novel are not the crimes. What’s most unnerving about Gone Girl is, shockingly, the true nature of Nick and Amy’s superficially normal marriage.

—Miriam

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