Merryn Huntley flees the scene of a tragedy but must confront long-hidden truths.
Jones (Lies My Mother Never Told Me, 2009, etc.) begins at what could be the height of a novel’s intensity: a doorbell rings at 3:35 a.m., and two police officers stand outside. Merryn learns that her husband has died in a car accident. From there, the novel only accelerates. She reacts oddly, packing a suitcase for her and her daughter, Tenney, and hiding cash and valuables inside the battery compartment of one of Tenney’s toys. She tries to book a flight to Mexico, but when her credit cards are denied, she decides they will drive. In the car, she finally registers an emotion: relief. “Perhaps,” she thinks, “we really will be free.” The most captivating relationships in the story are the mother-daughter pairings. Merryn takes Tenney to San Miguel de Allende, where her own mother, Bibi, lives. Bibi is a rich alcoholic whose manipulative nature has had lasting impacts on her daughter and her granddaughter in turn. The novel, narrated from Merryn’s unreliable first-person perspective, is told in the present tense. This is a fitting choice given Merryn’s shortsightedness and inability to confront her past. Her urgent voice renders her panic attacks as pervasive and affecting. Equally compelling are several scenes of raw, unfiltered action, including a vivid description of a stray dog giving birth. But the present tense is hard to sustain and leads to some awkward maneuvering of plot. All of Merryn’s flashbacks must be announced as memories (“I mentally backtrack to the beginning,” she says, so that the reader can follow her), and her moments of self-realization often feel like too little too late.
A fast-paced story of a woman who only stops lying to others once she stops lying to herself.