Seventeen-year-old Nofar’s lie erupts on a seemingly humdrum day in her town’s local ice cream shop where she works. Two generations her senior, Raymonde’s lie is born when she receives a call meant for a recently deceased friend. These two separate instances of deceit bind together a story about the consequences of untruths in Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s new book, The Liar.
Nofar feels herself to be ill-fated. She yearns for attention and love — the perfect life she sees her younger sister Maya living, endowed with beauty and an outgoing personality. This jealousy explains the awakening sensation she feels when she’s abruptly torn by the press from obscurity into the limelight of fame. The only catch? The story she tells jails an innocent man for sexual assault. The man, Avishai Milner, is himself no stranger to the intoxication of fame. He enjoys the exhilaration of renewed attention before realizing the end result. We see parallel emotions from both the accuser and the accused, a need for flattery and validation from others. It is this corresponding, often ugly portrayal of the inner workings of these characters’ minds that makes the book so captivating and honest.
Raymonde’s story starts innocently enough when she takes a phone call meant for a friend who has recently died. The call is to enquire about a trip for Holocaust survivors from the retirement home where Raymonde lives in Israel to visit Poland. Raymonde, whose closeness to her friend is not limited by their similar features, agrees to go — using her friend’s identity. What starts as a vacation soon turns into something far more unsettling as her lie begins to exploit the tragedy of her friend’s time spent in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. She begins to have feelings for a man she meets at a meeting for Theresienstadt survivors, which complicates an already messy situation. In Poland, Raymonde meets Nofar thus tying their destinies together.
This theme of coming to know one’s strengths and weaknesses through the perceptions of others is woven throughout the novel and within different characters. Instead of serving as a warning to those susceptible to invention, the narrative seems to encourage the exploration of tale-telling as a means to self-discovery. What begins as a friendship between these two wildly different women eventually exposes the cost of living a life built on a fantasy.
Hazel McNulty Czapsky is an avid reader who currently lives and works in New York City.