With this book, James Whitfield Thomson became a first-time published writer at the age of 67. And it's so good it makes me wonder why it took so long for the powers that be to catch on. I can never resist a delayed success story, so I knew Lies You Wanted to Hear needed to be on my list.
I was fascinated by Thomson's main character Lucy. In the opening scene, she is alone in her house, thinking about her children. It's apparent that she doesn't expect them home anytime soon, and that actually she hasn't seen them in many years. What isn't clear is where they went, and why she's writing them letters instead of cooking their dinner and tucking them into bed.
The story then flashes back to the late '70s, when Lucy was a freewheeling single girl a few years out of college, dabbling in recreational drugs and working in the alumni office at Harvard. She is the quintessential free spirit, largely uninterested in stable working men who would make good husbands and falling over and over for the typical bad boy. It sounds like a cliché because it's so familiar—girl can't quit the rebel even when she has a good man on a string—but Thomson gets so fully inside Lucy's head that her choices make a kind of sense, even as we're cringing at her recklessness.
That's the main appeal I found in this book: Thomson builds his characters so intricately, they become real. The first-person perspective, alternating between Lucy and her husband, feels positively claustrophobic by the end. Both characters are so convinced of their rightness, so deeply mired in themselves, they can't surface long enough to catch even a glimpse of the other's point of view. I also loved that there is no villain here—although at the outset Lucy herself admits she is the problem, Thomson shows how choices made over the course of a lifetime can twist and warp even the most righteous person.
And of course, hanging over all of this drama is the big question: where are Lucy's children? The suspense of that mystery makes for a fast and furious read. Be sure you have plenty of time when you pick this one up, because once you start you won't want to stop until all has been revealed.