The Com­fort of Lies: A Novel

May 13, 2013

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.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Randy Susan Meyers

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 some­how 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?

Enhance Your Read­ing Group 

1. Con­sid­er read­ing Randy Susan Mey­ers’ first nov­el, The Murderer’s Daugh­ters, as a group. Com­pare and con­trast the ways that Mey­ers tack­les the issues of guilt and for­give­ness in this nov­el, as well as in The Com­fort of Lies. In each book, how does she illus­trate the ways that a sin­gle action can have reper­cus­sions across mul­ti­ple years and lives? 

2. For some brief moments in the nov­el, we hear Nathan’s point of view. Which of the oth­er male char­ac­ters’ per­spec­tives would you have want­ed to read? For exam­ple, what do you imag­ine Peter would say after his con­ver­sa­tion with Car­o­line on p. 226 – 227

3. Pre­tend you’re cast­ing the movie ver­sion of The Com­fort of Lies. Who would play each pro­tag­o­nist? Who would you cast as Nathan?