Had We Were Liars not cautioned me against revealing too much of the book’s ending to anyone, I might have enjoyed it more than I did. The promise of having the rug pulled out from under me in the final few pages left me pondering what the twist would be and how it would work rather than sitting back and allowing me to slowly draw out the line before setting the hook.
In many ways, it reminds me a lot of the problems I have when approaching an M. Night Shymalyan film. I’m so conditioned to expect a twist that I find myself less concentrating on the story and characters than I do on looking for the seeds to be sewn for the twist or trying to be one-step ahead of the game and guessing the twist ending.
That feeling didn’t necessarily ruin We Were Liars for me, but it kept me from having quite the same zen-like experience that other readers have had with the novel.*
* I will note from a perusal of other reviews that the book seems to be fairly polarizing. It seems that readers either love it or they’re not necessarily sure the destination was worth the ride.
It’s the novel of the Sinclair family and their summers spent on the family island. The first three grandchildren plus a young man named Gat, spend each summer there together, having adventures on the island and growing up together. Our narrator is Cady, who has feelings for Gat.
Two years earlier, Cady waded out into the ocean in her clothes and was found on the beach with a head injury. She experiences short term memory loss, debilitating migraines and other side effects from the experience. She skips one summer on the island to tour Europe with her estranged father and the next summer insists on going back for half the summer in the hopes of reconnecting with her family and figuring out exactly what happened that fateful summer evening. Cady’s family can and will tell her what happened, but Cady doesn’t recall being told even moments later, leading her mother and doctors to decide she needs to remember what happened on her own.
Over the course of the story, E. Lockhart explores the complicated relationships and history of the Sinclair family. What from the outside appears to be the “perfect” family is instead one built on lying, deceit and manipulation. It seems that grandchildren are just one attempts by various parties to control and manipulate each other and to stake various participants claims to the family legacy.
The novel sets up the coming “pulling out the rug” moment fairly well with enough threads put into place that when it does come, it feels substantial and earned. That said, I’d guessed (part of) what was to come a long time before the big reveal, which allowed me to be both smug at my own intuitiveness and surprised by what Lockhart achieves in the final few pages of the novel.
Told from the point of view of Cady and easily shifting from past to present, We Were Liars is a book is good, but it’s not quite one that I’d rate as necessarily being great. It’s well written, fun and entertaining but it’s not quite the zen-experience (for me anyway) that others have made it out to be.