The Liar

  • Review
By – December 3, 2019

Sev­en­teen-year-old Nofar’s lie erupts on a seem­ing­ly hum­drum day in her town’s local ice cream shop where she works. Two gen­er­a­tions her senior, Raymonde’s lie is born when she receives a call meant for a recent­ly deceased friend. These two sep­a­rate instances of deceit bind togeth­er a sto­ry about the con­se­quences of untruths in Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s new book, The Liar.

Nofar feels her­self to be ill-fat­ed. She yearns for atten­tion and love — the per­fect life she sees her younger sis­ter Maya liv­ing, endowed with beau­ty and an out­go­ing per­son­al­i­ty. This jeal­ousy explains the awak­en­ing sen­sa­tion she feels when she’s abrupt­ly torn by the press from obscu­ri­ty into the lime­light of fame. The only catch? The sto­ry she tells jails an inno­cent man for sex­u­al assault. The man, Avishai Mil­ner, is him­self no stranger to the intox­i­ca­tion of fame. He enjoys the exhil­a­ra­tion of renewed atten­tion before real­iz­ing the end result. We see par­al­lel emo­tions from both the accuser and the accused, a need for flat­tery and val­i­da­tion from oth­ers. It is this cor­re­spond­ing, often ugly por­tray­al of the inner work­ings of these char­ac­ters’ minds that makes the book so cap­ti­vat­ing and honest.

Raymonde’s sto­ry starts inno­cent­ly enough when she takes a phone call meant for a friend who has recent­ly died. The call is to enquire about a trip for Holo­caust sur­vivors from the retire­ment home where Ray­monde lives in Israel to vis­it Poland. Ray­monde, whose close­ness to her friend is not lim­it­ed by their sim­i­lar fea­tures, agrees to go — using her friend’s iden­ti­ty. What starts as a vaca­tion soon turns into some­thing far more unset­tling as her lie begins to exploit the tragedy of her friend’s time spent in a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp dur­ing World War II. She begins to have feel­ings for a man she meets at a meet­ing for There­sien­stadt sur­vivors, which com­pli­cates an already messy sit­u­a­tion. In Poland, Ray­monde meets Nofar thus tying their des­tinies together.

This theme of com­ing to know one’s strengths and weak­ness­es through the per­cep­tions of oth­ers is woven through­out the nov­el and with­in dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Instead of serv­ing as a warn­ing to those sus­cep­ti­ble to inven­tion, the nar­ra­tive seems to encour­age the explo­ration of tale-telling as a means to self-dis­cov­ery. What begins as a friend­ship between these two wild­ly dif­fer­ent women even­tu­al­ly expos­es the cost of liv­ing a life built on a fantasy.

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