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Thursday, December 2, 2010

True or False?

The False Friend
Myla Goldberg
Doubleday, 2010

Celia is a successful professional working in Chicago. She is involved in a committed relationship with a young man and everything seems to be going okay for her -- except – one day she is hit with a memory of a tragedy that happened when she was a young girl. This memory is so real and so compelling that she must correct a lie she told when it happened – that a friend of hers got into a car with a stranger, never to be heard from again. Celia has suddenly remembered what really happened: that her friend Djuna fell into a hole in the woods, and Celia deliberately did nothing to save her. She immediately goes to her hometown where her parents still live, to right the wrong she committed so many years ago.

When Celia gets home, however, her parents are incredulous and don’t believe her story. Although the girl was never found, many people in the community spent time in the woods and town looking for her. They would have found her if she fell into a hold, her parents insist. Celia knows in her heart what really happened, and desperate to make things right, she contacts the other girls in their group to see if any of them remember the truth. As she finds each of them, Celia remembers more about the cruelty and domination she and Djuna lorded over the others, especially one girl who was poorer than the others, and more desperate to belong to the clique. Celia's desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences as she uncovers clues to herself that she thought she had hidden away forever.

This psychological novel is an interesting study in self deception and how the lies we tell ourselves can eventually become a truth of sorts. I think we all have events in our past that we are ashamed of, and sometimes it’s necessary to hide these truths away in order to proceed with our lives. Celia had successfully recreated her childhood to erase the girl she had been with her friend Djuna, a girl she did not particularly like. It’s no accident of coincidence that Djuna disappears and Celia misremembers the occurrence – it is symbolic of the effort she makes to become a new person. The psychological aspects presented are fascinating as they unfold into a deeper explanation of motives, group dynamics, and the particular nastiness of little girls. Be prepared to condemn characters you had previously liked, and don’t be surprised if the ending isn’t really very happy after all. In fact, you may be left with an uneasy and unsettled feeling that causes you to think about the book for some time after it’s finished.


Other books by this author:
Bee Season (2000)
Wickett’s Remedy (2005)

Other titles you may like:

The Pact: a love story by Jodi Picoult (1998)
This is about a teenage suicide pact between a pregnant girl and her boyfriend, both children of wealthy New England families. He shoots her, but fails to shoot himself and is charged with murder. At the trial he explains what made them do it.

The Silent Lady by Catherine Cookson (2001)
When an unkempt woman who is barely able to speak arrives in his office, London attorney Alexander Armstrong is surprised to find out that she is the woman who holds the key to solving a mystery that has plagued him for twenty-six years.

Losing You by Nicci French (2008)
Nina Landry awaits the return of her fifteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who had spent the night at a friend's house, but Nina begins to worry when Charlie does not come home and no one takes the disappearance seriously.

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