“Family of Liars” by E. Lockhart is the prequel to and almost as good as “We Were Liars.” Boy, can Lockhart plot. If you’ve read the original, the reader might guess that the narrator is unreliable, which is a handy device for leading us astray. But I bought right into the story.
This prequel takes place a generation earlier than “We Were Liars,” in 1985, and centers around 17 year-old Carrie and her slightly younger sisters, Penny, Bess, and ten year old Rosemary. Their wealthy and entitled family spend summers on their private island an hour off of Martha’s Vineyard. This summer, her uncle brings three teenaged boys to the island to accommodate his teenaged daughter Yardley. George is Yardley’s boyfriend. Major and Pfeff are his friends.
The island is big enough that there are several beaches, several docks, and four houses, one for the caretaker and servant. The provided map is helpful. It’s pretty intoxicating for the reader, especially the young reader, to read about these ultra-rich people and how they live, boating hours to the mainland to shop, having everything you never knew needed, at their fingertips. Carrie’s mother Tipper is the uber-hostess and serves “nibbles” of lobster rolls for Happy Hour and Dad serves underaged teens alcoholic drinks. Tipper throws parties where she and her maid serve four flavors of handmade ice cream, sponsors lemon hunts with $100 prizes, and the food served makes you wonder if everyone on the island is the size of a house. But you know their lithe and gorgeous. Lockhart says. And they’re all blonde.
The patriarch, Harris, is a rich businessman (that serves cocktails to the kids) who loves his family and passes along various mottos such as “be a credit to the family” and “the only way out is through.” The girls work hard, whatever it takes, to look like a credit to their family, and therein lies their problems. Harris looks upstanding alongside his brother Dean, father of Yardley, and the tension between the two brothers comes to a head midway through the story.
Carrie isn’t as beautiful as the others and her father has masterminded cosmetic surgery to change that, and the pain killers involved become an addiction. The next oldest, Penny, is gorgeous and careless of people’s feelings. The three entitled boys and five entitled girls on the island (Penny has invited her friend Erin for the summer) don’t pair up neatly. It’s far more complicated than that. The story begins with the youngest, Rosemary, having drowned the summer before at the age of 10.
Pfeff flirts with Carrie. Carrie gets her first kiss, but that’s the end of the simple story line. The upper crust Sinclair family pulls us along with their society ways as the plot gets more and more complicated. A fun and surprising read.
Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of the award-winning books: Lift As You Climb; Josephine; Loving vs Virginia; and Struttin’ With Some Barbecue all signed and for sale at Jane Addams bookstore. Books forthcoming about women’s suffrage, Martha Graham, and Ella Fitzgerald. talesforallages.com
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