E. Lockhart pens a haunting story in Family of Liars. She not only shares how unearned privilege can lead to “terrible things on top of terrible things” but how those with resources often get a pass: “They assume that girls like us—educated girls from a ‘good family’—they assume we are telling the truth. We get the benefit of the doubt, the assumption of innocence, conferred by our family name” (277).

Tucked in the telling, though, Lockhart also shares how messy and miserable that “pretending, lying, trying to have a good time” (219) can become. Because Carrie Sinclair is depressed and suffering, dealing with issues of acceptance and a search for belonging, she takes codeine and then Halcion to ease her pain. Soon, an escape from pain grows into an addiction. She has always been taught that “we get by, by being busy” (242) and that “being a credit to the family” (17) is expected. “The way people see you—it is the way they see all of us” (17). Therefore, the Sinclairs “never speak about medical issues. [They] show their love not with honesty or affection, but with loyalty (17). Sometimes loyalty leads to lying.

Haunted by her sister Rosemary, who drowned at age ten, Carrie attempts to help her ghost crossover. Carrie’s role as comforter involves reading fairy tales to Rosemary. “Our family has always loved fairy tales. There is something ugly and true in them. They hurt, they are strange, but we cannot stop reading them, over and over” (54). After all, sometimes fairy tales come true, and monsters are real.

While Lockhart confronts the haunting power of grief and the human effort to ban it in this prequel to We Were Liars, she sprinkles in some key morals. One suggests that “manners are kindness. . . . They show [that] you value other people; that you consider their time, their possessions, their creative effort” (75). Another shares the notion of acceptance and how our emotional health depends on our belief that we are enough, that we are “perfect just the way [we] are” (176). We need to understand “it’s beautiful to love whomever [we] love” (176). Obviously, life is more complicated than that, so we resort to telling lies and half-truths or to silence. The Sinclair family believes that “silence shows respect for someone else’s interior life” (182), so they pretend. In Family of Liars, Lockhart reveals the consequences of pretense.

  • Posted by Donna

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