Husbands and Lies is the debut novel of this writer, but you would not believe it from the assurance with which she writes. The basic premise of the story is a little far-fetched, but believable - a terminally ill woman asks her friend to scout out dating websites in order for them to write an advert for her husband so that he will not mope over her death when she is gone. I mean, it is not a nice thing for someone to try and control who her husband may or may not meet, but you can understand that someone facing death from cancer may not be thinking so rationally anyway, and would merely want to see her husband and young daughter looked after.
So, the central character of Fran acts upon her friend's request and finds what she believes is the picture of her husband on the dating site. The rest of the tale follows the consequences of this find.
What I liked about the book was the clarity of the prose - it was lovely writing that drew you in and helped you suspend your disbelief. I had made it to page 241 before I was shaken out of my absorption by this sentence: "I can't believe I'm doing this, hanging around street corners waiting to catch my friend's husband making whoopee with your fiancee just so that I can get my husband back" which does highlight the ridiculousness of the eventual predicament that Fran finds herself in.
I found that the majority of the characters were well-drawn, barring Adam who manages to remain the villain of the piece and is rather two-dimensional.
The thing I liked most, though, was how clearly McPhee drew upon her own experiences with suffering through the illness and death of a friend that had cancer to lend compassion and elegance to the scenes between Fran and Alison.
A memorable book.
SFM: Buckell, Krasnoff, Miller, Herbert
7 hours ago