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Sometimes I Lie


Sometimes I Lie

I have to confess that I have gotten somewhat jaded with the “unreliable narrator” plot that seems to drive a great number of thrillers being published these days. They certainly continue to be popular, and God bless. There are enough books of wide variety out there that one can hardly feel deprived of new reading material, regardless of interest or preference. But a terrific book is a terrific book, and Alice Feeney’s debut is an “unreliable narrator” tale that is one of those.

SOMETIMES I LIE moves from time to time to time, that being primarily (with a couple of exceptions near its conclusion) the book’s “Now,” “Then” and “Before.” “Now” is the 10 or so days from December 26th (Boxing Day, for our British friends) to January 3rd, while “Then” is the week prior. Both sections are narrated in the first person by Amber Reynolds, who in the “Now” is in a coma, nonresponsive but very much aware of what is going on around her. She has no idea how she got where she is. However, as conversations occur around and over her, what is said and what is not leads her to believe that either her husband Paul or her sister Claire --- or both --- might have had something to do with it.

"...a one-sit read that keeps you guessing and wondering, even after you’ve finished the book, from an author to watch in the future."

It is the “Then,” though, that comprises the most intriguing sections. Amber is employed by a local radio station and is partnered with Madeline Frost, the station’s Queen Bee. Frost has been the host of a top-rated morning radio program for two decades, and her helpful public persona is nothing like her private demeanor. Here, the reader gains some insight into the workings of Amber, and it’s obvious she’s not quite right. This is reinforced in the “Before” sections (you thought I had forgotten about those, didn’t you?), which consist of excerpts from a diary written some 24 years prior to the book’s “Now” and deal in part with Amber’s childhood at age 10 and her friendship with a lonely girl who, for better and for worse, will have an influence on her that will transcend their school years.

Meanwhile, in the present, Amber’s problems extend beyond her comatose state. Someone keeps visiting her hospital bedside and does not seem to mean her well. Amber has no idea who this person is, but he or she certainly knows her. The problem is that Amber can’t do anything about it, given that she is trapped in her body. You’ll be asking yourself throughout how Amber is going to get out of her situation --- even after you find out the truth --- but when you learn the answer and its full ramifications, you’ll want to reread the book just to witness how Feeney pulls things off.

Let me elaborate on the “pulls things off” statement. Feeney spends the first third or so of SOMETIMES I LIE setting up the dominoes, the middle third making you think there aren’t any dominoes, and the final third throwing them all over the room. But there is a precise order to it, with a bit of justice and revenge thrown in for good measure, as well as a concluding sentence that surprises and chills. The result is a one-sit read that keeps you guessing and wondering, even after you’ve finished the book, from an author to watch in the future.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 15, 2018

Sometimes I Lie
by Alice Feeney