My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.
Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?
I happened upon Sometimes I Lie thanks to a Facebook advertisement, of all things, and I prepared myself for the worst. Something about the synopsis called to me, even though I’ve never purchased a book this way. I can’t say I was expecting the results. This is a book that takes its time sinking in its fangs, but once it did, I sacrificed sleep and sanity to finish reading it.
Sometimes I Lie, a debut from a long time journalist Alice Feeney, actually reminds me a great deal of Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker. (Long time readers will know that Emma in the Night is a favorite here.) The main characters hide a consuming darkness that leads to a story that twists, turns, and leads the reader down a labyrinth where nothing is what it seems. The difference though is that Emma in the Night capitalizes on a single question. Sometimes I Lie never stops asking them.
Amber Reynolds is in a coma, with no memories on how she ended up in the hospital, unable to move or speak. She is convinced her husband, Paul, had something to do with it. Also joining the cast is her enigmatic, intense sister, Claire, and her husband, David. I cannot reveal anything else about the plot or any other characters without spoiling the story. That’s how much it twists around. The book takes one premise – What happened to Amber? – and launches the story from one revelation into the next. It reveals a deeply twisted narrative that never ceases to surprise.
What I can say is that Feeney’s biggest strengths are these mystery characters, as well as portraying them. The author has a gift for taking negative traits and giving them an unsettling charm. Amber tends to whine, but she states her grievances like facts that cannot be changed. Claire sees the world in black and white, but she does so with logic and reasoning. These aren’t the usual ways of doing these flaws in characters, so they become more interesting. More magnetic. Feeney’s prose is also beautiful and borderline poetic, and the book is chock-full of quotable one liners.
I have a couple of gripes with this book. One is that one of the characters (I can’t say who, obviously) felt very gimmicky and forced. It felt like yet another way to force a twist on the book, when the rest of the plot came naturally despite its unpredictable nature. The other is the beginning – it felt like Feeney was very reluctant to show anything of who Amber was at the beginning, which is understandable, but it also made the story crawl. It takes about the third of the book to really get going, but when it did, there was no way to put the book down.
I’ve been reading psychological thrillers for a long time, and it’s very hard to get the jump on me just once, never mind the entire book. Sometimes I Lie is a wonderful exception that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. This is a stunning debut, and I look forward to Feeney’s next novel.