Randy Susan Meyers's first novel, THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS, was a book club favorite, thanks to its complex exploration of two sisters growing up in the wake of tragedy. She puts this same empathetic, multifaceted approach to good use in her second work, THE COMFORT OF LIES. Here, however, the event that unites the book's primary characters is not a tragedy but rather the birth and adoption of a single child.
Tia grew up in South Boston, in a tough but compassionate neighborhood, with an overworked mother and an absent father. When an older, sophisticated married man takes an interest in her, Tia is convinced that a relationship with Nathan might be the ticket to the different sort of life she's always dreamed of. But when Tia discovers that she's pregnant, it's clear that Nathan's primary loyalty is to his wife and their two young sons. Alone and heartbroken, grieving the imminent death of her own terminally ill mother, Tia decides to give the child up for adoption.
"It's easy to imagine some heated book group discussions --- about everything from open adoption and working moms to loyalty and forgiveness --- arising from THE COMFORT OF LIES."
Caroline and her husband, Peter, are able to give Tia's daughter, whom they name Savannah, a life full of every luxury and comfort. Peter has always wanted a large family like the one he grew up in; Caroline, who is most passionate about her work as a pathologist at one of Boston's large research hospitals, isn't sure she really has the maternal instinct, even after five years of caring for their adopted daughter.
When it becomes clear that something needs to change in Savannah's life, Caroline is thrown into crisis, especially when she learns more about Savannah's birth parents. Juliette, Nathan's wife, has known about his affair with Tia ever since he confessed to her just after breaking off the relationship five years earlier. She's had a hard time trusting him ever since. And when she opens a letter from Tia that includes photos of her daughter (supplied by Caroline), she's thrown into crisis once again, setting into motion a series of events that will bring these women together and leave none of them unchanged.
As with Meyers's debut novel, the multiple points of view offer readers several different ways into the story, several different perspectives to consider and discuss. The author divides the book up into one or two chapter chunks, told from the three women's perspectives. It's interesting to see the parallels among the women's lives, as different as they might initially seem. All three have addictions of sorts, for example --- to food, alcohol, or prescription sleep aids.
At times, the characters’ motivations --- particularly Caroline's and Juliette's --- are a little difficult to discern or understand, but perhaps that will make for even more intense debates and discussions. The couple of chapters told from Nathan's point of view are oddly placed and largely unnecessary; Nathan may have been part of what propelled the story forward in the first place, but readers will certainly find the female characters far more compelling and worthy of consideration. It's easy to imagine some heated book group discussions --- about everything from open adoption and working moms to loyalty and forgiveness --- arising from THE COMFORT OF LIES.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 15, 2013
The Comfort of Lies