A gas explosion rips apart a Chicago building at 10:00 a.m. on October 10th, killing more than 513 people and forever changing many more lives.
A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day but, instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it fall with both her husband and best friend inside.
Kate is now living thousands of miles away, having fled the disaster. She hopes that she won’t be found . . . and her past won’t catch up with her.
Franny is a young woman in search of her birth mother. She watched the television news coverage in horror, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.
Despite the impact upon each of the women, they all seem safe. But as the first anniversary of the tragedy nears, memories of that terrifying morning serve to be dangerous triggers.
All three women are guarding important secrets. How far will they go to keep them?
As The Good Liar opens, the one-year commemoration of the tragedy is set and the media is focused upon it. Cecily lost her husband and the father of their two children, Tom, that day. She was en route to the building and her reaction to the disaster was captured by Teo, a photographer who was in the vicinity. The photo became the iconic symbol of the tragedy — and Cecily the unwitting face of loss and its aftermath. But it’s a status that makes Cecily extremely uncomfortable . . . and guilty. She is attempting to get her life back on track, working part-time in a restaurant. She keeps her true feelings are being suddenly widowed hidden and is protective of her now-fatherless children. In addition to Tom, Cecily lost Kaitlyn, her best friend and also a mother of two. Cecily’s grief, like that of Kaitlyn’s husband and children, is palpable and still raw, the loss an unwelcome presence in their daily lives.
Franny, age 23, claims to have also sustained a terrible loss that day. She was determined to find and forge a relationship with the mother she never knew. And is convinced her mother perished innthe explosion. In the aftermath, she has remained enmeshed in the tragedy, serving as a member of the group charged with responsibility for determining who should receive compensation, fashioning herself as a advocate for the survivors.
Meanwhile, Kate has recently relocated to Montreal. She leads a quiet, solitary life as the live-in nanny to two little boys whose mother is demanding, in addition to frequently absent.
Cecily, Frannie, and Kate all harbor destructive secrets, revealed by McKenzie at expertly-timed moments via three different narratives: A first-person account from Cecily; the transcript of an interview conducted with Franny by Teo, who is now making a documentary film about the tragedy; and a third-person recitation describing the elusive Kate’s actions and thought-processes. In this tautly constructed and finely nuanced tale, the three women’s lives are intertwined and enmeshed — even in ways they discover along with McKenzie’s readers. McKenzie’s characters are layered, complex, and empathetic: Everyone keeps secrets. But for these characters, the revelations of their truths would have far-reaching consequences and could devastate those they love.
Cecily and Kate are forced to face the reality of what their lives were like on that fateful morning and the ways in which that reality is at issue with the public’s perception of and ongoing fascination with the victims and their families. Questions swirl about the validity of Franny’s claim, her murky past, and her current machinations. At a steady, unrelenting pace, McKenzie keeps her readers guessing about the truth and the lengths to which each woman will go to guard her secrets. And delivers gut-punching revelations at the very end.
The overwhelmingly tragic events of September 11, 2001, inspired McKenzie to write The Good Liar. She notes that “every major thread” in the book “is somehow connected to 9/11 because the genesis of the idea for each of its threads is something connected to that event and its aftermath.”
The Good Liar again demonstrates McKenzie’s prowess as a strong female voice in current fiction. It is a riveting story that believably provides insight into the emotionally devastating grief of sudden, tragic loss. It inspires readers to ponder how they would cope in such circumstances, and consider what lies beneath the surface of their loved one’s lives, as well as question the lengths to which they might go to keep their own secrets. The unique and captivating story resonates long after its shocking conclusion.