Skip to main content

The Lies That Bind

Review

The Lies That Bind

Ever since her first novels --- the paired narratives of SOMETHING BORROWED and SOMETHING BLUE --- readers have responded to author Emily Giffin’s ability to tell a story that is both surprising and satisfying. Her work has grown steadily more serious, continuing to relate strong stories while also tackling a host of worthwhile themes, making them perfect material for book club discussions.
 
It’s pretty safe to predict that Giffin’s latest novel, THE LIES THAT BIND, will be hotly argued over as well. Its surprising --- and possibly controversial --- ending, which I obviously won’t reveal here, is only the last in a series of plot twists that will leave readers eager to discuss and debate.

"Its surprising --- and possibly controversial --- ending, which I obviously won’t reveal here, is only the last in a series of plot twists that will leave readers eager to discuss and debate."

But let’s back up. THE LIES THAT BIND opens in the spring of 2001 in New York City, where Cecily has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend, Matthew. She is convinced they are on different timelines, looking for different things from one another. As happens in many a breakup, however, Cecily starts to feel lonely and is on the verge of emailing Matthew from a bar --- and that’s when Grant steps into her life. He persuades her not to email her ex, and instead engages her in some pretty flirtatious banter. Cecily invites him back to her place, where he falls asleep chastely beside her --- all before either one of them has learned the other’s name.
 
What follows is a whirlwind romance that has Cecily forgetting Matthew even as he starts to make noise about getting back together. But her summer romance has to be put on hold when Grant announces that he’ll be accompanying his twin brother Byron to the U.K. so that Byron --- who suffers from ALS --- can undergo some experimental treatments. Grant and Cecily continue exchanging long-distance emails, and she even visits him in London, but her friends warn her that there’s something a little…off…about Grant, something secretive and untrustworthy. Blinded by infatuation, Cecily ignores their warnings.
 
Until September 2001. Grant and Byron come back to the States early that month, and Grant joyfully reunites with Cecily upon his return. But the very next day is September 11th, and soon Cecily comes across Grant’s photo on one of the countless missing-person posters peppering Lower Manhattan in the days after 9/11. I don’t want to give much more away, so I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that numerous narrative twists ensue, many of which readers definitely won’t see coming.
 
For better or for worse, Giffin firmly grounds her novel in the early 2000s, with numerous references to the pop culture, fashions and below-the-fold news stories of the times. Occasionally, 9/11 can seem like just another of those slice-of-life details, a convenient historical event that helps further the plot. That’s a component of the novel --- along with that ending I mentioned --- that might divide readers. Regardless, however, everyone who lived through the time that Giffin writes about likely will recognize some trend, TV show or passing news story that has been forgotten in the intervening years.
 
Cecily is a realistically flawed character who --- particularly in light of her life experiences --- grows increasingly unsure of how and with whom to pursue her own personal happiness. Readers may or may not agree with her ultimate choices, but they certainly won’t be bored by the journey she takes to get there.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 5, 2020

The Lies That Bind
by Emily Giffin

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0399178953
  • ISBN-13: 9780399178955