”It is one thing to be lied to, but it is something else again to be the liar. But even then, most of us don’t look at it like that. We make up our own excuses, justifying the betrayal, clothing it in nobler raiment. It is easy to pretend that maintaining a lie is in the best interest of those we might hurt, supreme in the confidence that we will never get caught. Of all deceptions, that is the most common and the most foolish--and the one for which people have the least sympathy.”
A couple of decades ago I made the momentous decision not to lie anymore. I’m not talking about the white lies that we all tell to keep from hurting someone’s feelings which is all part of being a good human being, but the big lies. I decided I was secure enough in who I am as a person to take the heat instead of using a lie to extract myself from a difficult situation. (I do reserve the right if someone has a gun pointed at my head to lie my ass off.) I also believe in the burden of truth. Sometimes it is my responsibility to carry the truth on my shoulders and not share that burden with others. This book reminded me of the importance of staying true to those principles.
Harry Winslow has it all. He is married to one of the most lovely women on the planet and she has a trust fund. ”Maddy is … strikingly beautiful. Long red-gold ringlets...and pale blue eyes. No makeup. A patrician face.”
He has a son who adores him. He has friends, good friends, who hang on his every word. His latest novel has just won major prizes. The world has bowed at his feet. ”He was always a self-contained unit, someone so supremely confident in his own abilities that he never once questioned them. He had never needed to. I know he worked hard, but it was the work that a gifted athlete puts into his training regimen. It helps to elevate his game, a game that most of us could never hope to play and never pretend we could.”
His relationship with Maddy has evolved. ”Over the years, they had made love with less and less frequency. Theirs had become a working relationship, and had long ceased being a passionate one. They were a team, she explained to me. After twenty years, some things change.”
To me what she is really saying is they have become comfortable. They have long since fought over what they needed to fight about and now instead of battles they have skirmishes. They have sacrificed some passion to achieve peace. They have heard each others best stories several times, but the retelling is like listening to Homer sing the stories of Troy. You may have heard them before many times, but with each telling there is always someone new hearing it for the first time and their reactions give the story life again and again. Harry and Maddy are securely nested and as long as neither one of them go through a major personality change or tell one of those BIG LIES
their lives will keep spinning in this carefully cultivated orbit.
And then Claire arrives. ”The poet Lamartine wrote that a woman is at the beginning of all great things. It’s indisputable. After all, women give birth to us, so they are always at the beginning. But, whether they mean to be or not, they are also present at the beginning of terrible things too.”
She is pretty, maybe even stunningly pretty, but more importantly she is young, vibrant, and humming like a live wire. ”And she, like so many of the young, was looking for a shortcut, an edge over the competition, always in a hurry, not yet realizing there is no benefit in speeding up the journey, that the destination is not the point but merely part of the process. They also don’t fully appreciate that their actions have repercussions. That lives can be ruined. Of course, the young don’t have a monopoly on selfishness. We want what we want. The bitter truth is that it rarely makes us happy once we get it.”
Temptations are bombs wrapped with pretty bows. It always amazes me to watch people crater twenty years of work in twenty minutes. If you had asked Harry if it was even a possibility that he would have an affair he would have told you emphatically, probably with a boisterous laugh, that it was impossible. I have never fooled myself that way. I know it is possible and I believe I need to always keep the mirror of that knowledge in the pupil of my eyes so that I’m not vulnerable to my own stupidity. Charles Dubow, I will admit, writes some pretty steamy sex scenes; and yet, at the same time I found them not just titillating, but also introspectively tasteful.She pulls down his trousers...She slowly rubs...Oh god...She takes him in her...looking up at him...She shudders...He watches...She moans, clenching herself like a fist...deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper...My god, My god, My god...
Well okay so I left out all the good parts and the introspective parts, but to read the rest is just another great incentive for all of you to buy, borrow, or steal this book.
Harry lies to Maddy and that is the unraveling of twenty years of trust. There is never enough air for any of them after that.
The book is narrated by Walter, a childhood friend of Maddy, but also very good friends with Harry. He is godfather to their son Johnny, he has always been in love with Maddy, and he is one of those friends that every single person on the planet needs. Similar to Nick Carraway he is included in nearly all aspects of their lives, confided in with what he doesn’t see, and tenaciously investigates what he doesn’t know. He is why we have this story instead of just pieces of a tragic tale that collapses for lack of ropes, guide wires, and stage direction. Like any good playwright Walter will misdirect you, make you question your beliefs, and throw glitter in your eyes. This book was like a Milky Way candy bar for the brain, impossible to put down, and every bite is just as good as the last. This cast of characters will seduce you, and bring joy and pain as if you are there at the table drinking martinis(martinis are like women’s breasts; one is not enough and three are too many.
), eating Maddy’s food, and gazing with fondness at their majestic faces. Highly Recommended!!!
And if you don't believe me read the review that convinced me. To read this book by my friend Will Byrnes. Link to Will's Review