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The Better Liar


The Better Liar

How do we repress and distort our childhood memories? In THE BETTER LIAR, Tanen Jones explores how adult siblings remember their earlier times together. She also ventures into spooky territory, as the story is told using three different first-person narratives.

One is Leslie, the older sister. The other two are Robin, the younger sister Leslie found dead in Las Vegas just after their father left them a joint inheritance --- either both are there together to accept it, or neither gets it --- and Mary, who Leslie meets by chance and who agrees to impersonate Robin so they can get the money.

"[E]ven when Jones reveals part of the truth, there are still more twists to be unraveled."

But as with all good mysteries, we get the sense from the start that all is not as it appears to be. Once Leslie and Mary travel to Leslie's house, frustration kicks in when they don’t immediately get the inheritance. They can't see the lawyer for a week. Mary then begins to realize that Leslie is hiding something, and she wants to know what it is. Why does Leslie need the inheritance so badly? From outward appearances, she has everything: a husband, a lovely home, a baby, a job. Then why did she lie about losing her job? Why does Leslie's husband hide secrets from her?

Mary is a puzzle, too, and Leslie doesn't trust her. She disappears all day, although she has no car, no friends and nowhere to go. What is Mary doing?

Then we hear from Robin, whose body Leslie found at the beginning of the book, drug-ravaged and skeletal. Robin tells us about their past, and it's quite revealing. The story raises some powerful questions. How far will someone, especially a child, go to please and win approval from an older sibling?

As secrets build on secrets --- some of which are pretty horrifying --- readers will begin to suspect what is really going on here. But even when Jones reveals part of the truth, there are still more twists to be unraveled.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on February 7, 2020

The Better Liar
by Tanen Jones