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The Lies Among Us


The Lies Among Us

Award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst opens her new novel, THE LIES AMONG US, with a bit of a shocker. We are taken aback as we meet Hannah, the first-person narrator, as she is nestled next to her mother's body inside her mother’s casket just before burial. That's our first clue that Hannah isn't a flesh-and-blood person. Hannah's mother has just died, leaving only Hannah's sister, Leah. Leah can't see or hear Hannah, so Hannah basically is alone for the first time in her life.

Leah's point of view is presented in the third person, so while we feel closest to Hannah, we also see what had happened to Leah because of their mother's mental illness and inability to stop lying. But it's mostly through Hannah's eyes that we find out about their family, especially their mother. Hannah died as a child when she was two years old, yet her mother refused to believe it. Or she knew that Hannah was dead but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Until she died, she talked to Hannah (although she couldn't hear Hannah's responses), imagined Hannah's progress as her daughter grew up, and even set a place for Hannah at the table. She talked to others as if Hannah were still alive, and through those lies, her daughter lived on.

"This is a story with intriguing ideas that stay with the reader long after turning the last page. The concept regarding lies, the manifestations of lies, and how lies can take on a life of their own is fascinating."

Even though Hannah's mother, like everyone else, couldn't see Hannah, she learned to live with her mother by inserting herself in her mother's solo conversations, imagining that what her mother said were responses to her comments. Now that her mother is gone, Hannah is not quite sure what will happen to her. One night, following Leah to a dive bar so that Leah could drown her sorrows in alcohol, Hannah sees a shadowy figure like herself. She attempts to follow the man, which opens a new world for her. For the first time, she discovers what she is and how she came to be. She makes a friend or two, and most importantly, she finally realizes her purpose.

THE LIES AMONG US lacks some of the humor that Durst writes into her other books. But the subject matter, the lies we tell, is a dark topic. In addition to the thoughtful treatment of what happens to lies once they are told, Durst explores the grief someone might feel when a not-beloved parent dies. We all know people who are completely bereft when their parent passes away because of the depth and fullness of love and affection that they shared. Others, whose parents may have lacked that paternal or maternal feeling, often feel pangs of jealousy or envy, wishing that their parents had engendered such feelings of devotion in them. But there is still grief, as Durst so ably points out. There is the grief from the loss of a parent, but also sadness at the loss of any possibility of having a wonderful relationship with that parent.

What Hannah learns over the course of the story enables her to effect positive change on Leah, who had been walking a path that veered dangerously close to the one their mother had taken. Hannah's newfound energy and strength help her give her sister a chance at a brighter future. She is also determined, with the assistance of her new friends, to help the world find a brighter future. Or at least as much as she can accomplish toward that end.

This is a story with intriguing ideas that stay with the reader long after turning the last page. The concept regarding lies, the manifestations of lies, and how lies can take on a life of their own is fascinating. Our present world is filled with lies uttered by serial prevaricators who show no remorse, but rather are proud of lying about everything possible. And doesn't it make sense, in a strange fantastical way, that those lies would pollute our world? Durst has imagined a world where that very thing happens, and that world is worth thinking --- and reading --- about.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on April 13, 2024

The Lies Among Us
by Sarah Beth Durst