From the bestselling author of Bee Season comes an astonishingly complex psychological drama with a simple setup: two eleven-year-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out....
Leaders of a mercurial clique of girls, Celia and Djuna reigned mercilessly over their three followers. One afternoon, they decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened.
The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward, their relationship falling into a rut that threatens to bury them both.
Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, but her family and childhood friends don’t believe her. Huck wants to be supportive, but his love can’t blind him to all that contradicts Celia’s version of the past.
Celia’s desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences. A deeply resonant and emotionally charged story, The False Friend explores the adults that children become - leading us to question the truths that we accept or reject, as well as the lies to which we succumb.
The False Friend follows the dynamic childhood relationship of Celia and Djuna, who swear they’ll always be friends until the day Djuna disappears from the side of a main road. Two decades later, Celia, the only witness, has a flashback that leads her to believe she’s been lying about what really happened to Djuna, and she returns to her upstate-New York hometown to come clean. Author Myla Goldberg, best-known for her spelling-inspired first novel Bee Season, narrates the book, bringing a sweet, girlish tone to a story about the capacity for meanness in even the most innocent-seeming children.
As Celia tries to clear her conscience by convincing her parents, her boyfriend, Djuna’s mother, and the other girls on the road that day that she lied about what really happened to Djuna, she makes an unexpected discovery: Her memory of herself as a child and others’ memories of her reveal two very different people. And as the adults in her life brush off her interpretation of Djuna’s disappearance, the questions about that day on the road only multiply.
Though Goldberg’s readings of the supporting characters aren’t as dramatically different from Celia as some narrators would make them, Goldberg does a respectable job of voicing characters that range from 11-year-old girls to nearly-retired men. And the writing is strong enough to carry the listener through: The False Friend is full of detailed imagery, genuine emotions, and personality reveals that keep the story moving. Listeners who like their mysteries neatly wrapped up complete with forensic evidence and signed confessions may be disappointed in the ending, but the ambiguity feels familiar (and appropriate) to anyone who’s ever lost a childhood friendship even if under less dramatic circumstances without being quite sure what happened. Blythe Copeland
“The False Friend is a riveting read, both compelling and richly satisfying.” (RIchard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic)
"Not since Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye have we seen such a precise and haunting portrayal of girl bullying. With uncanny pitch and tenderness, Goldberg captures both the passion of female friendship and its most savage rite of passage. Both girls and adults will find solace in this gem of a novel." (Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls)
“There are moments when I fear that my entire personality was formed (and malformed) in middle school. We all learned the hard way that there is nothing as obsessive and cruel as the intimate friendships of young girls. Myla Goldberg's magnificent new novel The False Friend mines this terrifying but exhilarating territory with precision, insight, and honesty.” (Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother)
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