My daughter (whom, for those of you that don’t know, is 6 and in the first grade) has been studying past Presidents for the last 3 weeks. A few days ago, ecstatic with her new found (shockingly vast) knowledge on the topic she decided to teach ME all that she had learned. I (admittedly/shamefully) was only half listening, UNTIL I heard the word “fool.” Having never heard the word from her before (and being a little concerned that I had missed the context for this word and why it was used) I asked her to repeat herself. After a fairly dramatic sigh (which I deserved therefore ignored) she started from the beginning.
Abraham Lincoln said:
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
My first reaction was relief. My daughter was NOT calling someone names. (*wipes brow*) My second? I’m totally using that in a review. (Waste not, want not. Right?) AND having just finished Lia Fairchild’s novel “Compulsive” (Liar Book #1 — you see what I did there?) I knew I wouldn’t have long too wait before I could break it out.
The truth is, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to sum up this novel if I had a week of silence and 40 cups of coffee. (Though, “the truth will set you free” made an internal appearance one or twice.) And though I rarely find my inspiration from dead Presidents (and by “rarely” I mean: never) I couldn’t deny the perfection of the statement in front of me. Lia’s protagonist Gray could fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but she couldn’t fool Daniel. Which made for a very interesting story.
There are a multitude of things I love about Lia Fairchild’s writing, but the most notable is her ability to create beautifully complex characters that don’t warp under the weight of heavy scenarios. Alcoholism, abandonment, compulsive lying, self-doubt, self-worth…these are all realistic trappings of human nature, but with a few words and a little compassion, Fairchild managed to manipulate these traps into stairs allowing her characters to grow instead sink.
You know what, let me go back and start from the beginning.
Gray (who is the sole narrator in this story) is a compulsive liar. She knows it, and everyone around her knows it. She has used her lying to deflect attachment since a very young age (ie: if you don’t know who I am, you can’t hurt me.) and she does so without a single second thought on the matter. It is what it is. Knowing this about her (before I even started the book) trumped up an image I didn’t like, and I went into this book thinking I was going to despise the mouth the story was coming from. However, after a few pages I realized that wasn’t the case. Gray was not a one dimensional character, therefore, she WAS NOT her lying. Her lying was a bi-product of her situation. (A very sad situation.) And despite her insistence that she would never change (and never attempt to) you could feel that THAT was a lie as well. It made her vulnerable, likable, and a person I championed for. A part of me wanted her love story to flourish into the things dreams are made of, but the other wanted Gray to find herself first. A little peace in a raging storm, if you will. It made for a slew of mixed emotions (for both myself AND the character) but also kept me completely engaged and excited for the next page.
Daniel (Gray’s shrink and eventual love interest) was much harder to pin down, but no less interesting. He was Gray’s kryptonite, but also her sun, the one person who could both build her up and knock her down. (For the record, all “knocking down” was unintentional…he’s a pretty decent guy.) Despite the lack of detail when it came to his background (which was a big fat nill) I still felt a level compassion for him that I wasn’t expecting. His struggle to maintain professionalism, while yearning to simply “take care” of Gray led to some intense dialogue, and some amazingly tender moments. (On both sides.) That said, I was impressed by Fairchild’s ability to maintain his masculinity under the weight of so much “understanding.” There were a few moments (for example: when he stood in FRONT of Gray during an encounter with a one night stand) where his Alpha-Male showed, and THOSE are the scenes that added weight to his simple character, made him less of a place marker and more human.
As for the rest of the cast (Nathan, the twins, Alyssa, Jessie…even her Dad) they were the perfect answer to stellar character building. They all offered (varying) insight into the inner workings of Gray, which helped complete plot circles and clear up any dangling questions.
Speaking of the plot, it was solid. There were a few moments when I felt a drag, but for the most part it sustained a steady pace throughout the entire novel. It was equal parts self-discovery and romance (which I really enjoyed) and ended just the way it should have; unconventional but healthy.
Note: For those of you that thrive on the push/pull of romantic literary entanglements (vs bed hoping) this is definitely a book you will enjoy.
My final thought: this was a really good book. Solid and heartfelt. Well done Mrs Fairchild.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: People are not broken, but sometimes they are a little scuffed up. Handle with care.