Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beautiful Lies

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
Crown Publishing Group, 2006
Hardcover, 374 pages
Ridley Jones Series #1
ISBN-13: 9780307336682
Highly Recommended

If Ridley Jones had slept ten minutes later or had taken the subway instead of waiting for a cab, she would still be living the beautiful lie she used to call her life. She would still be the privileged daughter of a doting father and a loving mother. Her life would still be perfect—with only the tiny cracks of an angry junkie for a brother and a charming drunk with shady underworld connections for an uncle to mar the otherwise flawless whole.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, those inconsequential decisions lead her to perform a good deed that puts her in the right place at the right time to unleash a chain of events that brings a mysterious package to her door—a package which informs her that her entire world is a lie.
My Thoughts:

Lisa Unger's Beautiful Lies had me hooked right from the beginning. The novel starts with a brief glimpse into the life of a young woman in 1972. Next it jumps to sometime in the present day/future when two people are apparently hiding while running for their lives. Then we are formally introduced to our main character, Ridley Jones, who narrates the story in a first person account. Ridley contemplates how an infinite number of small decisions led to vast changes in her life and the lives of those around her. This is all clever enough, but then the story gets even better.

Unger is a really good writer. The characters are all flawed and their development is realistic. As Ridley delves into secrets from the past and questions how they are connected to her, her family, and her new neighbor, Jake, the treachery and intrigue (as well as sex and romance) increase. The fact that you know, right from the beginning, that things are going to go terribly wrong at some point and Ridley will be pursued by bad guys of some ilk, helps keep the suspense high. That and the fact that you don't know who is good, who is bad, or if everyone is a shade of gray.

This was Unger's debut novel and is quite impressive. There are a few little problems in the story, but most of them are not major and can be easily overlooked. While some reviewers didn't care for Ridley's first person narrative and her talking to the reader, I liked it.
Highly Recommended


There were times she wished he were dead. opening

It's dark in that awful way that allows you to make out objects but not the black spaces behind them. My breathing comes ragged from exertion and fear. The only person I trust in the world lies on the floor beside me. I lean into him and hear that he's still breathing but it's shallow and hard won. He's hurt, I know. But I can't see how badly. pg. 11

"Ridley, please, don't do this." The voice echoes in the dark and comes from up above me. "We can work this out."
I don't answer. I know it's a trick. Nothing about this can be worked out now; we're all too far gone. There have been plenty of chances to close my eyes and go back to the sleep of my life as it was, but I haven't taken any of them. Do I wish now that I had? It's hard to answer that question, as the wraiths move closer.
"Six," he whispers.
"You have six bullets left." pg. 13

Until recently my life has been fairly uneventful. Which isn't to say I was just plodding along when the single occurrence I am about to share with you turned my world on its axis, but now that you mention it, that's not too far off. And yet I have come to believe that it was not one event precisely but an infinite number of small decisions that led me into the circumstances that have so changed me and those around me. pg. 14

It's all these choices that we could have made, the things we might have done. We see them with perfect clarity only long after the moment has passed. pg. 25

And there was a note including a phone number and a questions.
It read simply: Are you my daughter? pg. 32

Smart impresses me; strength of character impresses me. But most of all, I'm impressed by kindness. Kindness, I think, comes from learning hard lessons well, from falling and picking yourself up. It comes from surviving failure and loss. It implies an understanding of the human condition, forgives its many flaws and quirks. When I see that in someone, it fills me with admiration. pg. 52

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