Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Category: Literary Fiction
Author: Linden MacIntyre
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Publisher: Random House Canada
Pub Date: March 20, 2012
Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre is a parallel sequel to MacIntyre’s Giller Prize winning novel, The Bishop’s Man, which won its acclaim in 2009. This story, though, is told through the perspective and voice of Effie (Faye) MacAskill Gillis, sister to Duncan, the protagonist in The Bishop’s Man.
It’s a complicated tale, a microcosmic view into the life and thought-process of Effie Gillis after three broken relationships and a conscious effort at building a tolerance to independence and the changes that come with being a middle-aged woman.
But, Effie is no “blushing bride,” not only in that she’s courted marriage, both by religion and common-law, but did so to three different, yet intrinsically connected men: John, Sextus, and Conor.
Her age and experience with the inherited advice containing seeds of stereotype against the danger of men, have I think, helped harden her against traditional forms of femininity. Though her capacity to love is deep and willing and her keen ability to notice emotional detail in a facial expression, tone of voice, or small mannerism reveals a woman who has accumulated experience and wisdom, Effie is also very much a self-protective individual who practices a tendency to self-edit her conversations and her actions before she says or does them.
And in her self-professed independence and autonomy as a middle-aged, unmarried woman living on her own who finds quiet satisfaction in the monotony of her career (she’s a university professor) and the uncomplicated lifestyle of a single woman—she reconnects with J.C. Campbell upon a “chance” meeting on a Toronto subway platform.
Their relationship suffused with connected details and people from the past becomes a push-and-pull dance like an elastic band that stretches and retracts upon itself over a number of years.
Their “togetherness” isn’t a professed announcement of “coupledom” as social etiquette usually demands or even as legality goes, but rather an unpredictable return to the comfort of each other’s familiarity—and distance. But, even in this, regardless of how close they are in a physical intimacy and compatible dialogue, they remain quite for a while, strangers to the details of each other’s darker histories.
The narrative, at times, reads much like thought and memory in that it can be disjointed and non-linear and written with a subtlety that is crucially and identifiably MacIntyre’s writing style. As author, he rarely shares with the reader a direct telling of facts or circumstances of his characters’ pasts or present, but alludes to their possibility. This makes for an active read and an active reader who cares enough to commit to “connecting the dots” and deciphering subtle clues in the narrative.
It is an intricate account of the complexities of relationship, memory, and the secretive darkness that is potentially in every individual’s past and his or her capacity to do “bad things” that alludes to the deeper question and theme of the book:
How well can you really know anyone?
In this book, it is the knowing and unknowing that not only brings people together and/or breaks them apart, but the wisdom behind the acceptance that lies we sometimes tell or indirectly allude to in the discretion we use to protect either ourselves or others is not necessarily deemed an immoral sin, but a necessity fashioned out of soft selfishness and motivation from and for a good cause—love.
And perhaps that is enough.
Why Men Lie is a delicate and intelligent read about difficult subjects that will arouse you to think, extrapolate, judge, and even grieve. eA book well-worth reading. And reading again.
For another review of this book, check: Hooked on Books’ review.
Thank you to Random House Canada for providing me with a media copy for an honest, unpaid review.