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Book Review – We Were Liars

May 8, 2014

Image    We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, release date 5/13/2014

Cadence (Cady) Sinclair Eastman comes from a wealthy family, the kind of family that has a private island off of Cape Cod.  Every summer is spent on the island amongst the extended Sinclair family, including her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Cady is especially close with her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and friend of the family Gat, and the four become known as “The Liars”.  Although Gat’s Indian heritage and dark skin mark him as “different” to some in Cady’s family, Cady has an instant bond with him that grows through the years.

Summer fifteen (the summer Cady was 15 years old) is when cracks in the idyllic facade of island life start to show through.  Cady’s father leaves the family for another woman, throwing Cady’s world out of balance.  Granny Tipper Sinclair had eight months before summer fifteen, which left the whole family out of balance.  Cady’s mother and aunts start quarreling over Granny’s possessions and other matters of the Sinclair estate, and Granddad Sinclair is content to let them fight.  One night in late July, Cady goes swimming by herself and suffers some kind of terrible accident.  She wakes up in the hospital unable to remember exactly what happened, her pain made worse by the fact that The Liars have abandoned her.  Cady spends the next year plagued by migraines, and is eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic headaches caused by brain injury.

After spending summer sixteen on a European vacation with her father, Cady finally returns to Beechwood Island for summer seventeen.  Things are different now – Granddad has torn down his old Victorian house and built a sparse, modern house in its place.  Cady is thrilled to see The Liars again for the first time in two years, but they hold a grudge against Granddad and the aunties, and stay at one of the smaller houses.  As Cady feels a nagging unease at the separation from the others, she gradually begins to remember the circumstances of the accident that happened in summer fifteen, revelations of a tragedy much bigger than Cady could ever imagine.

Lockhart’s stunning writing captures Cady’s voice – typical narrative alternates with incomplete, starkly written sentences that convey the sadness and pain that Cady feels.  Cady composes fairy tales trying to make sense of what has happened, and each new version reveals more and more of the terrible truth.

In the end, The Liars accomplish what they set out to do, although in a way they could have never foreseen.  They helped their aunties and Granddad understand that all the possessions, trinkets, expensive homes are not as valuable as loved ones.  As Cady comes to realize the true consequences of the events of summer fifteen, she also realizes the inner strength she possesses to keep on living.


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