The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
Pub. Date: June 23, 2015
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!!)
Summary: On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous bestselling author who appears a modest everyman. A loving, devoted husband even though he could have any woman he desires. A generous friend and coworker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.
For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed facade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.
Now not only are the police after Henry, but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man and he works out an ingenious plan. He weaves lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. But bit by bit the noose still tightens.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller
Recommended for: Fans of unlikable characters, readers who enjoyed The Girl on the Train and/or are curious about German fiction
Back in February, I reviewed the massively popular The Girl on the Train. Sadly, my expectations were too high and I was left disappointed. I voiced my frustrations on twitter and Atria (one of my favorite imprints) stepped up, offering me a review copy of one of their upcoming thrillers. I was immediately drawn to the premise: a man has become a famous novelist from the books his wife has written and his secret is about to come out. Um, yes please!
Henry and his wife have a peaceful coexistence. She never wanted to become a novelist – she only wanted to write – and spends her days churning out bestseller after bestseller. Instead it’s Henry who came forward, submitting manuscripts under his name. Initially the first had been tossed aside, entirely forgotten until an editor named Betty pulled it from the garbage and knew she was holding gold. Now Henry’s a household name with several titles under his belt and a movie franchise in the works.
The tower he had so carefully constructed however, isn’t nearly as indestructible as he thought. When Betty announces she’s pregnant (Henry’s the father) Henry’s world begins to shatter, his lies start to unravel, and a man from his past could be the final key to undoing everything.
I don’t know where to begin. I wanted to love this one. I was so on board with it – the premise sounds great! …but the entire time I was reading my mind kept thinking back to The Room, one of the WORST books I’ve read, not just this year, but ever. Henry and Bjorn are very similar: they both think they’re smarter and better than everyone around them, that they exist on a different level than the common folk (which is hilarious, seeing as how Henry’s image is based on him being an Everyman.) I don’t know if these comparisons hindered any enjoyment I could have found, but I was disgusted with Henry.
When Betty told him about the baby his idea was to kill her. His wife had caught on that he was having an affair and didn’t blame him. She drove to Betty’s house, the two chatted, and she said they simply have to love him in their own way. Not once was she upset or hurt about Henry’s infidelity (there’s so much that can be said about Henry’s thoughts on women.) For some reason, his wife drove Betty’s car home, decided to stop at the edge of a cliff, and it’s there Henry used his car to push the other car over the edge, all the while thinking it was Betty he was killing. Whoops. Naturally an investigation is launched, but of course no one suspects Henry. Instead, the town rallies about him.
Don’t think Betty’s in the clear though. Henry eventually murders her too (she knows too much.) As a child Henry was in an orphanage (there’s some backstory about watching his father fall down a flight of stairs and later his mother abandoned him) and one of the other children resurfaces. Gisbert knows exactly who and what Henry is – and he’s determined to tell every last detail. Don’t worry though, folks! In the end he has a change of heart.
And remember how Henry’s wife was the real writer? And that he killed her? Turns out she had secretly finished the novel she was working on and quietly sent the final chapter to the publisher without Henry knowing. WHEW, thank God for that! Wouldn’t want anything to go wrong for Henry, now would we?
Maybe I’m just not a fan of unreliable narrators? The past few novels I read I ended up disliking (or, in The Room‘s case, absolutely hating.) The Truth and Other Lies broke the fourth wall a few times and, had this been a different book (perhaps in a different genre?) I wouldn’t have minded. Here, however, I was taken out of the story each and every time. Judging from other reviews I’m clearly in the minority here; people are loving this book and it has countless rave reviews already. If you enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train this might be the perfect book to add to your collection. I only wish I could have had a better experience.