Effie Gillis has lived with three men, plus her father and brother, has been lied to and hurt by them all, and has finally reached a point in her life where she feels autonomous and strong enough that no man will surprise her again. When she runs in to JC Campbell, a friend from more than 20 years ago, she sees in him what she has been looking for her whole life: an independent, stable man she can trust.
Of course, if this were true, it wouldn’t make a very interesting novel, now would it? I don’t like to write spoilers into my reviews so all I will say is: it is mostly true. But like the rest of them, JC lies. But then again, so does Effie.
Why Men Lie is the third novel from Linden MacIntyre, the follow-up to his Giller Award winning The Bishop’s Man, and as the third in what’s become known as his Cape Breton trilogy, some of the characters are carried over. Effie is the sister of Father Duncan MacAskill, the ‘bishop’s man’ of the previous book. Having dealt with most of his demons, he plays a smaller role here, offering advice and stability to the many troubled characters.
I read this novel quickly – it was only released two days ago – and with its complexity, I am sure I won’t fully comprehend all it is saying it until I have had more time to think on it, discuss it with friends and reread it. My first impressions though are pretty much all favourable.
Effie’s struggle to differentiate between memories, nightmares and suggestions both touched and terrified me. I know that confusion, that fear – thankfully not in as an extreme situation as hers. The relationships and cross-connections between all the main characters were the right mixture of confusing, amusing and realistic (if you are from a small community). The ex-husbands who are first cousins is classic.
I both love and hate that we are never told for sure what really happened all those years ago between Effie and her Dad, why Sandy really shot himself. In the end, the “why” men lie is not important. They do. So do women. Get on with it and live life. That said, Effie’s “stalker” [minor spoiler] was not convincing or very well wrapped up, and I was left confused as to what the point of the character or plat-line was to the overall story.
There is a familiarity in MacIntyre’s writing that makes his novels feel like they are about people I know, like I am some minor character who could easily appear in the next chapter. The fact that I am from a small community not far away from all the action on the Long Stretch is part of it, but I have read a lot of Cape Breton authors and only a few of them can recreate ‘home’ so well.
Well worth the read, wherever you may be from.
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Random House Canada (Mar 27 2012)
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this novel from Random House Canada. As per my review policy, this in no way obliges me to write a positive review. I sincerely enjoyed the book.