The False Friend follows the dynamic childhood relationship of Celia and Djuna, who swear they’ll always be friends until the day Djuna disappears from the side of a main road. Two decades later, Celia, the only witness, has a flashback that leads her to believe she’s been lying about what really happened to Djuna, and she returns to her upstate-New York hometown to come clean. Author Myla Goldberg, best-known for her spelling-inspired first novel Bee Season, narrates the book, bringing a sweet, girlish tone to a story about the capacity for meanness in even the most innocent-seeming children.
As Celia tries to clear her conscience by convincing her parents, her boyfriend, Djuna’s mother, and the other girls on the road that day that she lied about what really happened to Djuna, she makes an unexpected discovery: Her memory of herself as a child and others’ memories of her reveal two very different people. And as the adults in her life brush off her interpretation of Djuna’s disappearance, the questions about that day on the road only multiply.
Though Goldberg’s readings of the supporting characters aren’t as dramatically different from Celia as some narrators would make them, Goldberg does a respectable job of voicing characters that range from 11-year-old girls to nearly-retired men. And the writing is strong enough to carry the listener through: The False Friend is full of detailed imagery, genuine emotions, and personality reveals that keep the story moving. Listeners who like their mysteries neatly wrapped up complete with forensic evidence and signed confessions may be disappointed in the ending, but the ambiguity feels familiar (and appropriate) to anyone who’s ever lost a childhood friendship even if under less dramatic circumstances without being quite sure what happened. Blythe Copeland
From the bestselling author of Bee Season comes an astonishingly complex psychological drama with a simple setup: two eleven-year-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out....
Leaders of a mercurial clique of girls, Celia and Djuna reigned mercilessly over their three followers. One afternoon, they decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened.
The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward, their relationship falling into a rut that threatens to bury them both.
Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, but her family and childhood friends don’t believe her. Huck wants to be supportive, but his love can’t blind him to all that contradicts Celia’s version of the past.
Celia’s desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences. A deeply resonant and emotionally charged story, The False Friend explores the adults that children become - leading us to question the truths that we accept or reject, as well as the lies to which we succumb.
©2010 Myla Goldberg (P)2010 Random House Audio
“The False Friend is a riveting read, both compelling and richly satisfying.” (RIchard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic)
"Not since Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye have we seen such a precise and haunting portrayal of girl bullying. With uncanny pitch and tenderness, Goldberg captures both the passion of female friendship and its most savage rite of passage. Both girls and adults will find solace in this gem of a novel." (Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls)
“There are moments when I fear that my entire personality was formed (and malformed) in middle school. We all learned the hard way that there is nothing as obsessive and cruel as the intimate friendships of young girls. Myla Goldberg's magnificent new novel The False Friend mines this terrifying but exhilarating territory with precision, insight, and honesty.” (Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother)
I listened to The False Friend over three months ago, and it continues to tug at me. Myla Goldberg has written what is not so much a coming-of-age story as a compelling novel about the profound and lingering wounds from girlhood bullying that we carry with us into womanhood. This is not the story of someone who was bullied; it is told from the point of view of someone who was a bully. On a journey to her childhood home to confront the truth behind a tragedy, she discovers that she left a broader swath of damage than she imagined. And a plot twist uncovers the unexpected extent of the damage she did to herself.
The False Friend is a novel of repentance and atonement. It is also a sobering cautionary tale. Young adults will probably not be able to project its full implications decades ahead into their own lives. What we can hope is that in this book women will find a healing perspective, and that all parents and teachers will find a renewed strength in guiding their daughters away from accepting bullying as a rite of passage.
Myla Goldberg does a creditable job of narration, although, as with most authors (with the notable exception of Sue Miller), Ms. Goldberg's pitch and tone are not ideal for a narrator. Given that her book delves into a pre-adolescent past, her chirpiness is not entirely misplaced. Though in the future I'd prefer to hear someone else narrate her work, in this instance her narration does not detract from the novel's impact.
This is a nice book with an interesting story. It was an easy read and I enjoyed it. What I hated was the reader. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the reader was the author. Bad idea! Her voice is like a squeaky teenager. When she moves into other characters, she gets even higher and squeakier.
So, not a bad book, just a bad reader.
Liked the way it was written, but didn't think the ending quite delivered.
Yes, I like her writing style.
She knows her subject and characters so well that it was a treat to have her read her own story.
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