Title: The False Friend
Author: Myla Goldberg
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Celia and Djuna were the best of friends growing up. However, their friendship had a mercurial nature - sometimes they were as close as sisters, and at other times Celia couldn’t stand Djuna. Walking home from school one day, Celia sees Djuna fall into some sort of hole, but instead of telling the truth, because of her frustration with Djuna at the time she lies and says that she saw Djuna get into a stranger’s car. Twenty years later, Celia can no longer live with her lie and returns home to confess the truth about what happened to Djuna.
From the beginning of The False Friend, the reader is biased against Celia. After all, she told a horrendous lie, and while she was just a child, it has taken her twenty years to come forward about her misdeed. Additionally, it seems as though she has sabotaged every relationship in her life. She’s not the easiest character to like, and I’ll admit that made this a bit of a difficult read. That being said, Celia is certainly an interesting character from an objective point of view, especially when it becomes clear that her memories may not be what she believes they are.
One of the central themes of The False Friend is the reliability of memory. At the beginning of the novel, Celia is absolutely certain she lied. She has been living with this her entire life, and she finally decides that it’s time to come clean. But the difficulty that arises when she tries to do just that is surprising. It seems that others around her agree with her false memories - that everyone knows that Djuna was kidnapped, and no matter how much Celia insists that was a lie, even those who were with her believe that is what happened. It makes Celia and the reader question her memories. What is the truth? What happened to Djuna? And why does Celia believe she lied if the evidence suggests otherwise?
Though the plot of The False Friend might sound like a gripping, suspenseful tale, it’s not quite that. That’s not to say it’s not worth reading, because it definitely is. But it is on the slower side; Goldberg takes her time uncovering the plot and developing the themes. It unfolds beautifully, and on each page the patient reader is rewarded, but action packed it is not. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d choose a different novel.
I was pleasantly surprised by The False Friend and am looking forward to reading more of Goldberg’s backlist. Her prose is beautiful and holds the novel up. Though it can meander at times, and Celia can definitely be difficult, it’s a book worth reading. If your book club is in the mood for something on the quieter side, this is a great pick due to the fact that it is relatively short.