The ups and downs of everyday life, the many dramatic struggles woven into the fabric of life, provide writers — this group of shameless voyeurs and hoarders of stories — with invaluable ideas for our novels. In The Comfort of Lies (Atria Books, 323 pp), Randy Susan Meyers, the bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughter, explores such modern-day themes of love and obsession, motherhood and adoption, trust and infidelity, and above all, the resiliency of the human spirit and the intrinsic need to forgive.
The story is told through four alternating points of view: Tia, a young, impressionable woman, who gave her daughter up for adoption five years ago; Nathan, a married man, who has a short-lived affair with Tia, but turns his back on her and disappears when she becomes pregnant with his child; Juliette, Nathan’s wife, whose life is upended when she learns about Nathan’s affair; and Caroline, the adoptive mother, whose work as a pathologist seems to take precedence over her motherly responsibilities.
Initially, the women are clueless of each other’s affairs, but soon enough secrets are revealed, emotions prevail, actions are taken, often rash, forcing the women to confront one another.
At stake is the future of Savannah, a five-year-old girl, whose adoptive mother seems ambivalent about her role as a mother until faced with the possibility of losing Savannah.
Meyers delves into the layered facets of motherhood and how children not only shape the fate of their parents, but also manage to sometimes tinker with their emotional balance and sense of judgment. Tia compiles a scrapbook of Savannah’s mailed photographs, and the reader knows that trouble is not far behind. No sensible person, with such an explosive secret, is allowed to collect evidence for the world to witness. But Tia’s obsessive love for Nathan, in addition to her desire to know her daughter, sets her on a reckless path. So much so that she sends a letter to Nathan that ends in the hands of his wife, causing a whirlwind of events — some expected, others not — and forcing everyone to come face-to-face, unearth secrets, and acknowledge past mistakes.
The strength of the book lies in shedding light on the much-too-common dilemmas of modern times, and its weakness in the fact that few of the characters, while embroiled in their own sense of right and wrong, fail to take the child’s future welfare into account, until too late into the novel.
Meyers has given us a tapestry of family life that begs a universal question: how would we react if we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as any one of these characters?