Lie Lay Lain by Bryn Greenwood

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Lie Lay Lain is the story of Jennifer and Olivia, and of the  people in their separate and shared orbits. The two know each other at the outset of the book, as they attend the same church, but their lives are completely different. Jennifer is engaged, part of an extended social circle, and has a good job. Olivia is single and lives at home with her parent and older brother, who suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident and cannot live independently. She works in the church that her family has always attended and has no life outside of home and church.

I think that people generally expect to be prepared in life for the big decisions that change everything (choosing a career path, who to date, where to live, etc), but neither Jennifer nor Olivia could have imagined the changes that they would experience as a result of the lies that they tell. In doing a kindness for a dying woman, Jennifer feels a sense of responsibility to see that promise through, although only Olivia seems to understand why Jennifer wants to check up on Shani, daughter of the dead woman. Jennifer becomes invested in Shani’s welfare, at times paying less attention to her job and her relationship with her fiancé. Olivia’s sense of guilt over lying makes her turn a small untruth, that she is dating a paramedic, into reality. Asking Rindell out on a date is her first step toward becoming an Olivia she never suspects could even exist. Her new romantic relationship confuses and excites her, but helps her find the courage to be less passive with others in her life.

This book is engaging and gripping, and I skipped working on an this awesome hat that I’m knitting to keep reading it. Respect. Even if the story had been only so-so, I would say that this book is worth reading just for the perspective on truth, lies, and honesty. Who could fault Jennifer for helping to ease a dying woman’s mind, or Olivia for trying to keep people out of her business? While there are some pretty blatant bad lies in this book, most instances of dishonesty are less clear-cut in their right or wrongness. Amazingly, as if encouraging heavy rumination on the nature of truth isn’t enough of an accomplishment, Ms. Greenwood also manages to squeeze in a nuanced perspective on race and identity in the midst of all of the other things happening in this book. Although this book is relegated on Netgalley to the Women’s Fiction ghetto, I would recommend this book to any lover of well-written fiction.

 

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