Sisters Maya and Rebecca are like ice cream and chocolate: totally different — almost impossibly different — but great together. Since their parents’ deaths many years before, Rebecca has coddled her younger sister, a woman now grown and married. United in their mutual guilt over the destruction of their family, Rebecca and Maya both become doctors — and work steadfastly to put the past behind them.
As Maya and husband Adam are trying (and, sadly, failing) to start a family, Rebecca is working with DIDA, a Doctors Without Borders-like organization that asks volunteer physicians to help in disaster-strewn parts of the world. When disaster actually finds them, there in their coastal North Carolina town, Rebecca doesn’t hesitate to volunteer — and, to their surprise, so does Adam.
Conditions in Wilmington rapidly deteriorate to chaos and panic reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina’s terrible aftermath. With no electricity, little running water, putrid temperatures and flooding, the scene is a nightmare. Desperate for more help, Rebecca and Adam ask Maya, still recovering from bad news at home, to come help. Sensing a gulf opening between she and her husband, Maya reluctantly agrees to come to the N.C. airport — hoping, despite everything, that the mess will bring them closer together.
But that’s not to be. Within days of reaching the most desperate and injured people, Maya must board a helicopter transporting severely injured people as it attempts to reach a hospital. And with little warning, the chopper doesn’t reach its destination — or anywhere close to it. For the first time since she was a teen, Maya is on her own: and must find out how to get back home. Any way she can.
Diane Chamberlain’s The Lies We Told is as swift and riveting a story as the storm-swollen rivers she describes in this, her nineteenth novel. Focusing on the bonds between sisters, families and the truths — and lies — that bond us together, I couldn’t put this book down.
Maya was, without a doubt, my favorite character. Her strength of spirit and perceptive thinking made her a person to be envied, not pitied. While I could certainly understand Rebecca’s persistent need to protect her baby sister, I was most proud of Maya when she struck out on her own — though she could never have predicted the circumstances. Where Maya winds up is an entirely new place, a frightening place — and, in her pain and confusion, she navigates it remarkably well. The novel alternates between Maya’s first-person point of view and a third-person look at what Adam and Rebecca are going through back at the airport. Maya’s sections were definitely my favorites.
Getting a glimpse at the life of emergency personnel — here, doctors in harrowing circumstances — is really interesting to me, and The Lies We Told provided a heart-stopping backdrop for that world. The frantic pace of the novel was matched by never-ending problems that must be dealt with — people that must be assisted, medicine to be distributed — and Chamberlain handled it all with a deft touch. The book’s epilogue stopped me dead in my tracks and, despite everything, made me feel sad. And hopeful. But sad — all at once. That’s the mark of good storytelling.
Readers looking for a book they simply can’t put down shouldn’t hesitate to grab this one, a novel I tore through in a day or so. It was this year’s designated “beach read” — and my paperback copy shows all the signs that connotates, including sunscreen-stained pages and water spots. I consider that a badge of honor.
4 out of 5!