Friday, May 30, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Delacorte Press, 2013

"Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
No one is a criminal.
No one is an addict.
No one is a failure.
The Sinclairs are athletic, tall and handsome.  We are old-money Democrats..."
"We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts."

And it's those summers that Cadence looks forward to where she spends the most glorious part of her year with her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and Gat, a friend of Johnny's.  It's always been those four since they were littles.  Now, they're much older and things are getting a little more complicated.

On this private island are four Victorian houses, for three sisters and their children, and head of the family.  Clairmont is where Tipper and Harris live, grandfather to the kids and parents to the sisters.  Cadence loves her grandparents' house, with the goldens Prince Philip and Fatima (Tipper loves dogs, especially these), the old tire swing on the big maple tree, and the sense of family when everyone gathers for dinner.  No cell phones, no television, just time spent on beaches, lobsters under the setting sun, practicing their tennis serves on the court, and the adults drinking wine on the front porch in cashmere sweaters and pearls.

Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat, also known as the Liars, are inseparable during their time together.  One for all and all for one, including an unexpected summer romance, which catches Cadence by surprise.  But during these summers, two tragedies occur.  First, Tipper passes away, which changes the family dynamic, especially Harris.  No one says anything about her when Grandfather is around - the grief is too much to bear.  The other is toward the end of  her 15th summer, Cadence is found on the beach, curled in a ball with no one else around, nearly dead.  She goes home to Vermont to recover with her stifling mother and doesn't remember much except snippets...her migraines are killing her.  What hurts her most, though, is her summer friends have distanced themselves.  No emails, no texts, nothing.

Cadence misses a summer, but two years after the accident she is back on the island, which has changed dramatically.  Clairmont is gone, replaced by a new Clairmont and Harris is slowly dipping into dementia.   Despite all of this, she is thoroughly enjoying four glorious weeks of fun, laughter, secrets and surprises with the Liars once again.  Until her memories start coming back....

Lockhart shows her talent with this poignant novel about family, friends, love, hate, secrets and betrayals.  What happens at the beginning at the novel begins to slip and Lockhart slowly reveals the ugly side to a beautiful family.  The one thing truly grabbing the reader is her use of language in the characters' conversations and thoughts.  The readers feels transported by her use of language to the East Coast, living among the wealthy trust fund babies and families to the point where you can almost hear the characters' voices in your mind instead of just reading it.  Mixing the revelations of the family with the language is powerful, but it's the unspoken elevating Lockhart's book to another level completely, which will leave anyone who reads it taken aback unexpectedly as well as creating imagery continuing even after the last page is turned.  AMAZING book, highly recommended!  Upper JH/HS

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