THE COMFORT OF LIES
Author: Randy Susan Meyers
Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
We all know that telling the truth is often harder than telling a lie and it’s no wonder that many people chose to hide behind the comfort of a lie. Some struggle with this more than others and dig themselves into great holes, knowing that the deeper the hole, the harder it is to get out … and still they chose comfort. Why do people do this when discovery only leads to pain? Randy Susan Meyers’ second novel, The Comfort of Lies, explores this conundrum in an intelligent and thought-provoking manner, showing that the collateral damage of lies far outweighs the initial comfort.
An affair. An illegitimate child given up for adoption. These events are at the root of The Comfort of Lies and their discovery rocks the world of several families. When Tia met Nathan, a married father-of-two, she fell for him in a big way, despite him making it clear that he would never leave his wife. Her pregnancy shocked him out of the relationship; after entreating her to give it up, he disappeared from her life. Now, Tia wants Nathan to know about the child she bore – a beautiful little girl she names Honor, but is called Savannah by her adoptive parents, Caroline and Peter. She sends a letter to Nathan, enclosing pictures of their daughter, hoping he will follow it up, but never imagining the events that follow.
Nathan’s wife Juliette opens the letter. She’s shocked to the core by what it reveals – she knew Nathan had been unfaithful, but he’d never mentioned a child. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. After tracking down the adoptive parents, Juliette invents a reason to meet Caroline and Savannah. Meanwhile, Caroline is dealing with her insecurities about motherhood – she loves her daughter, but doesn’t really love motherhood – and she’s conflicted by guilt and her desire to succeed in her field. Once she finds out the reason for Juliette’s contact, followed by a request from Nathan and Tia to see their daughter, her feelings come to the fore, threatening her marriage and all she holds dear.
It’s easy to lose focus of children’s feelings when adults deal with difficult situations – it’s human nature, I suppose. The Comfort of Lies provides a strong reminder that sometimes the children’s needs have to be the focal point – each of the three adult females had to come to that realisation, despite the pain it brought them. Coming to this realisation was not easy – it meant hurting others, self-sacrifice or compromise. Meyers taps into some important life lessons that bear further thought, be it for the storyline and characters, or the reader’s own life. Juliette, Tia and Caroline are interesting characters. They’re all flawed and I think readers will relate to different ones for different reasons; in the same way, they will be irritated and frustrated by some of their decisions. Reading others’ reviews, I see that sympathy for the women is spread fairly evenly – some can’t relate to Caroline, others find Tia selfish and immature and yet others find Juliette annoying. Isn’t that reflective of life and the people we meet? While I find it hard when I can’t relate to anyone in a book, in this case, there were aspects I did relate to for each character and I was able to look beyond to the complex issue/s they were facing rather than whether I liked them or not. The character development was good, overall, but what stood out to me the most was the honesty in which they were drawn. Like it or not, some women really do struggle with being a mother, just as some fathers struggle with fatherhood – some may judge Caroline for having those feelings, but I would bet there are quite a few nodding their heads on the inside.
Well-written and insightful, The Comfort of Lies tackles some big issues in marriage breakdowns, infidelity, alcohol abuse, parenthood, adoption and abandonment, but does so with plenty of heart. I found it an absorbing read, mainly for the thought-value it provided and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an intelligent, character-driven novel.
Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. This copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
Bookish treat: Comfort food is needed. For me, that means chocolate (and I may have eaten some in the reading of this book).