So, this Orenda Month stems from an emotional slap in the face.
I did not make a list of every publishing company to randomly draw the one I would discuss in March. Nor did the Orenda Books logo appear in my dreams with a voice telling me to get all the books, though that would be a cool dream. Weird but good.
It happened in November 2016. It was not cold yet and another evening was passing. There was nothing particular about that evening. Me lying on the rug and scrolling through Twitter, the dogs fighting for a sock, a real-crime show on TV.
Okay, I’ll drop the “trying to write a story” idea and leave it to fiction writers!
As I said before, I was lucky to follow and chat once in a while with Karen, the head behind Orenda Books and one of the sweetest person you can find. I remember seeing the cover of A Suitable Lie from a book mail tweet and replying I was dying to read it after having seen that beautiful cover several times.
Not long after, I was devouring Michael J. Malone’s book, his words tugging at my heartstrings, the intense plot leaving me with no choice but to forget to eat and feed the dog to finish the story!
Now six months later, what remains from my first encounter with Orenda Books? I went and reread my review. Nothing has changed. I’m still rambling about it, pushing the book on everyone, and thinking I would have been a much better catch for Andy.
There is a reason A Suitable Lie won my Top 10 books of 2016. It is all in my review so I am reposting it today in honor of the Orenda Month which cannot truly begin without the book that started it all! Also, the author, Michael J. Malone, wrote a great piece on male spousal abuse which was published in The Guardian that needs to be shared and read to raise awareness on the subject!
When you have been reviewing for some time, you realize something both important and frustrating. Writing about a book you love is immensely more difficult than ranting about a story. Words come easily when you need to vent about how threads were left loose and characters lacked personality. But when you need to shout at the world to read something that has had a strong effect on you, words are sparse. We’ve all felt the frustration of not finding the right adjectives to put our feelings into words. When I finished A Suitable Lie, my head was filled with onomatopoeias. You get my problem, onomatopoeias are fun but not very handy to write a constructed review. I’ll spare you the “Ooooh” and “Ah!” and “OH MY GOD this can’t be happening!” and do my best to give this story justice. (In case you haven’t understood yet, this is a 5-star review!!)
Andy lost his wife four years ago. Raising his son Pat and doing his best at work keeps him going. He does not need more from life than smiles and cuddles from his son and the supportive presence of his mother and brother.But the latter does not want Andy to miss out on life’s opportunities and believes it is time for his brother to have more than a shadow life.
So when Andy meets Anna at the pub, it feels like fate. She is like no other woman. He is willing to give it a try. So willing that marriage is soon mentioned, and a few months later the family picture is perfect.
Or is it?
Have you noticed how the psychological thriller genre is inhabited by women. Strong women, weak women, damaged women. Males don’t have much of a voice when it comes to these stories, other than playing the perfect suspect (remember I love the suspect-husband trope!). But it seems unfair to have men pictured the same way over and over again. Before A Suitable Lie, I did not mind that 90% of my reads were told from a women’s point of view. Michael J. Malone showed me I was missing out on a different and equally interesting side of the world.
It is not hard to fall for Andy. He takes care of his little boy on his own, making sure Pat keeps a connection to his deceased mother and feels a real sense of family surrounded by his uncle and grandmother. He is a man who lost the woman of his life, and I felt his pain through Malone’s descriptions of life when the shiniest light brightening up your days has been switched off. Andy did not drown in the pain thanks to Pat’s presence, and his love for both his son and his wife shine through everything he does. My heart melted for the man and his little boy more than once. There’s nothing more natural for a father to try and recreate a “normal” life for his son. Andy’s reluctance to date and his fear of replacing his first wife Patricia broke my heart. Andy deserves to be happy again, and finally finds the strength to move on, without giving up on what’s left behind.
Raised by divorced parents, I witnessed what adding a family member to the lot means. Although the situation is different here, I found every emotion and situation perfect, the fear of the first times, the hopes for new bonds to be strong, the balance to find to keep everyone feeling happy and important.Seeing Andy handle all of it was moving and I really prayed for him to success throughout the story. Blame my hormones for rooting for the lonely and adorable father to get away from his nightmare.
But it’s not all about creating a new family. What happens when the result don’t match the picture you had in mind? What happens when everything is not what it seems? What happens after the glitter is gone and reality takes over?You’re slapped in the face.
A Suitable Lie is a slap in the face, a whirlwind of emotions, a roller-coaster that takes you on a journey from paradise to hell.
It does not take long for Andy to discover his new wife has hidden a few things from him. Anna is a complicated character – the perfect wife might not be so perfect. Or is she just misunderstood and hurting inside, just like so many of us?
Okay, now you’re wondering if I am ever going to mention the plot. Well, I already did. You see, I have the feeling your enjoyment of this story is deeply linked to your attachment to the characters. The more you care about them, the faster you turn the pages. Don’t worry, the brilliant writing and the characterization make it easy to fall for them and you won’t even realize how involved you are in the story until you can finally detach your eyes from the page to see an hour has gone and you did not notice.
Enough with the characters, I hear you say. But this is my review, I do what I please! Okay.
A domestic thriller is tricky. People want to know what happens behind other people’s door, it’s human nature. But we all have a picture of marriage, happy or not, and stories about such a familiar concept can easily turn dull and lifeless. Fear not, for Michael Malone brings you a star couple and the key to their bedroom. This sounds way sexier than planned. In addition to an array of characters worthy of an Oscar-winning movie, you get to take a look at how bad things can turn between two people. A Suitable Lie is not an easy read. I was devastated, frightened, angry, hopeful, scared witless, heart-broken.Because there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Because you can’t help but hope. Because it can’t be any worse. Well, I learned the hard way that it can be terribly worse than you expect. The author masterfully throws you into a hellish tailspin with nothing to hold on to. I ate so much chocolate during my reading I almost got sick. Because you’ll need support to watch Andy try and hold on to happiness. Try to fight for himself and his family. Try to understand. Try to be a husband. So much happens between those pages, I was blown away by Malone’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat, nibbling at my beautifully painted nails like a neurotic addict waiting for the guillotine to fall. Abuse takes many forms and leaves scars of all sizes. I think what made the biggest difference here is that we get to see a man dealing with it. We are sadly used to hearing women talk about their experience, so to sit with Andy through it all – the jealousy, the possessiveness, the blows, the lies to cover everything up, the hurt, the guilt, felt familiar but also so different. The author hides nothing, and it is painful to turn pages but if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to stop. An argument, an accident. Another argument. A simple remark. It escalates so quickly you are thrown into this nightmare with the family and there’s nothing to do but to keep on reading.
As I said, my review was late to come because A Suitable Lie has made it to my top 10 reads of the year and I feel I can never do justice to my favorite stories. If you are looking for a story that will shake you and stay with you for a long time, characters that will haunt you and pages that will fly so fast as you’ll turn them to find answers, don’t look any further. Michael J. Malone’s book is a brilliant piece of work.