'The Truth And Other Lies' Worms Its Way Into Your Brain

Book Review - Jackie K Cooper

Sasha Arango's THE TRUTH AND OTHER LIES is like no other book you will read this summer. It is a mystery that is never concluded; a character study that is never fully formed. It is a book without heroes - just villains and inept individuals. Yet even with all of this working against it, the book succeeds in spite of itself.

The story concerns Henry and Martha, a married couple living a symbiotic relationship. She is a writer, a great one. She composes stories for her own enjoyment yet lets her husband sell them under his own name. Henry is a user. He takes Martha's manuscripts, treats them as his own and then enjoys the fame and fortune that ensues. He has a great life and so in a way does Martha.

But Henry is greedy. He wants more. And so he begins an affair with his editor Betty. Martha has no need to know and acts as if she doesn't want to know. So Henry has his fame and fortune and Betty. It is all going smoothly until Betty announces she is pregnant with his child. Now things are complicated and Henry resents this roadblock in his path to happiness. So Henry commits murder and that is when things go seriously awry.

All of this is played out in the novel with very little emotion. Arango's style of writing is to make everything matter of fact no matter how horrific it becomes. It is a plodding way to write but somehow this technique becomes intensely interesting. It shouldn't be but it is.

The writing of this story is so bare bones that the locale is never clearly defined. You learn it takes place somewhere in Europe and it is a coastal village, but not much else. There are storms that occur here and some are very severe. There are people in the village with emotional problems and some of them are severe, but details as to why and how they arise are never specified.

This novel is not one you rush to finish, hoping to find a resolution to all that is occurring. Instead you can read a few pages and put it aside, possibly thinking you won't even finish it. Then you realize it has wormed its way into your brain and can not be forgotten. So back you go.

In the end the book just ends. At least that is how it felt to me. Still I have to say I have thought about this story more than any other book I have read this summer, and wondered just what did it all mean.

THE TRUTH AND OTHER LIES is published by Atria. It contains 256 pages and sells for $24.99.

Jackie K Cooper