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Comfort of Lies (Meyers)

The Comfort of Lies
Randy Susan Meyers, 2012
Atria Books
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781451673012


Summary
Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgment from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year, she’d waited to be punished for being in love, and in truth, she believed that whatever consequences came her way would be deserved.

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption.

Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother.

Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again, and she trusted him.

But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.

Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1952-53
Where—Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Education—City College of New York (no degree)
Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts


The dark drama of Randy Susan Meyers' debut novel, The Murderer's Daughters is informed by her years of work with batterers, domestic violence victims, and at-risk youth impacted by family violence.

The Murderer's Daugher was published in 2010; 2013 saw the publishing of her second, The Comfort of Lies. Meyers’ short stories have been published in the Fog City Review, Perigee: Publication for the Arts, and the Grub Street Free Press.

In her words
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to incessantly reading, spending most of my time at the Kensington Branch Library. Early on I developed a penchant for books rooted in social issues, my early favorites being Karen and The Family Nobody Wanted. Shortly I moved onto Jubilee and The Diary of Anne Frank.

My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of Guys and Dolls.

Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York...until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world weary at too tender an age, I returned to New York, married, and traded demonstrations for diapers.

While raising two daughters, I tended bar, co-authored a nonfiction book on parenting (Couples with Children), ran a summer camp, and (in my all-time favorite job, other than writing) helped resurrect and run a community center. (Adapted from the author's website.)



Book Reviews
An absorbing tale about lies and their emotional fallout in the lives of three women. Meyers creates psychologically complex protagonists by imbuing them with contradictions. This combination of positive and negative traits renders the characters all the more intriguing, for we are never quite sure what they will do until the end.
Winnipeg Free Press


An affair between bright young student Tia and Nathan, a charismatic married sociology professor, ends when Tia becomes pregnant. After urging her to get rid of the baby, Nathan tells his wife, Juliette, about the affair and never sees Tia again. Tia has a daughter and then gives her up for adoption to workaholic pathologist Caroline and her husband, Peter, who dotes on the child. Five years later, Juliette intercepts a letter from Tia that starts, “Dear Nathan, This is our daughter.” Inside is a photo of the girl, Savannah, and a promise to “help her get in touch” with Nathan in the future. Her trust in Nathan strained once more, Juliette goes in search of Caroline, who regrets neglecting Savannah. There’s a lot of regret here: Nathan regrets the affair; Tia regrets giving up her baby. And in the middle of all the regret, there’s a convoluted power struggle over little Savannah. Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughter) alternates between the perspectives of the three sympathetic women, giving access to their thoughts but short shrift to Nathan, the focal point of at least two of them. There’s much quiet family turmoil on display but not enough drama.
Publishers Weekly


One child given up for adoption ultimately brings together not only the birth mother, Tia, and the adoptive mother, Caroline, but also Juliette, the wife of the man who walked away from his affair upon learning of the pregnancy.... Verdict: In her successful outing after The Murderer's Daughters, Meyers enriches her character development with class and career differences, as well as by settings involving far differing neighborhoods of Boston. Readers who enjoyed Kim Edwards's The Memory Keeper's Daughter or Jeanette Halen's Matters of Chance will feel right at home in the anxious pages of Meyers' captivating novel. —Keddy Ann Outlaw, formerly with Harris Co. P.L., Houston
Library Journal


An affair changes the lives of three women in the second novel by the author of The Murderer's Daughters. Meyers has crafted an absorbing and layered drama that explores the complexities of infidelity, forgiveness, and family.
Booklist


Although the reader may find some of the choices made by the characters hard to understand, this is still a believable tale, and the characters crackle with both intelligence and wit. Meyers' women resonate as strong, complicated and conflicted, and the writing flows effortlessly in this sweet yet sassy novel about love, women and motherhood.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Discuss the epigraph of the novel, and whether you agree with this statement. Over the course of the novel, are lies shown to be a comfort to the person telling them or to the person hearing them? In general, do you think that there are situations in which telling the truth provides more comfort to the person delivering it, rather than the person hearing it?

2. Of the three female protagonists, which did you most identify with, and why?

3. As you were reading, did you feel compelled to take sides between Juliette or Tia? Did you empathize more with one or the other?

4. On page 82, Caroline describes her experience of her father’s love, saying, “No one in the family resented that his deepest energies were saved for his work. They didn’t confuse his love and his energy.” Do you think the same kind of parenting style  can be as effortlessly achieved by a mother? Must one parent be “stay-at-home” for this to work?

5. As a group, read aloud Juliette and Nathan’s argument on p. 129-130. Who did you identify with more in this scene? How is  the way that each character handles confrontation illustrative of their personality?

6. Discuss the role of religion in the novel. How does it affect Tia and Nathan, in particular?

7. Compare and contrast Juliette’s relationship with her mother and her parents’ marriage with what we know about Tia’s mother and father. How does each woman’s model of a romantic partnership affect what they seek in men?

8. Why, in his own words, does Nathan cheat? (You might turn to p. 219 and 252-253.) Do you believe that women cheat for the same reasons as men? Consider Caroline’s relationship with Jonah. Why do you think she stops herself when she does–and did she still cross a boundary she should not have?

9. Do you think that “emotional cheating" is ultimately different from physical cheating? What about lying versus “lying by omission”?

10. How does each woman respond to stress? Look at specific examples in the text. Who did you most relate to in this way?

11. Forgiveness is an undercurrent throughout the novel. Who is seeking forgiveness from whom?

12. Consider Nathan’s assessment on p. 252 that, “Juliette never let go of the why, which seemed to bother her more than the actuality. She searched for a reason that would put his infidelity into a paradigm she could understand and thus prevent from happening ever again. As though if he revealed the truth, she’d then understand how to prevent him from straying.” Do you think that understanding why something happened is necessary to fully forgive what actually happened?

13. Turn to Caroline and Peter’s conversation on p. 262. Does the fact that Savannah is adopted affect how Caroline thinks about being a mother–does it make it seem more like a daily choice she must make, rather than a state of being?

14. Legality aside, do you believe that Tia should have had any right to claim custody of Honor/Savannah? Does Juliette have a right to know Savannah?

15. Consider where Tia, Juliette, and Caroline are at the novel’s close. Do they seem some how better off than they were at the novel’s beginning? Does the old saying, “The truth will set you free” apply to these three women?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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