Joanne mène la vie typique d’une épouse et mère dans la petite ville de Modesto dans les années 70. Son mari Thomas travaille comme médecin et elle s’occupe des enfants et du ménage. Mais un jour, un incident bouleverse toute sa vie : un agresseur lui fait tomber de son vélo et vole son sac. Elle n’a pas de graves blessures mais le fait d’être devenu victime l’empêche de retourner dans la vie et de se sentir à l’aise. Quand Thomas lui refuse plus de médicaments, elle boit de l’alcool, puis, son comportement change : au supermarché, elle échange les chariots et prépare les dîners avec ce que d’autres personnes ont voulu acheter pour sentir un peu la normalité qu’elle-même ne retrouve plus. Un jour, après une phrase de trop de Thomas, elle se voit confrontée à une décision : ou elle se suicide ou elle recommence avec une autre vie. C’est ainsi que la nouvelle Joanne naît : à Las Vegas, derrière un comptoir d’un bar comme la reine des cocktails.
Laurence Peyrin raconte l’histoire d’une personne qui est déracinée violemment de sa vie. C’est un incident inférieur, plutôt une chose pour s’énerver et se fâcher, mais rien d’important. Pour Joanne, au contraire, c’est un moment décisif, quoique saine physiquement, son esprit et son caractère changent profondément. C’est la peur de devenir victime une deuxième fois, l’impression de ne pas être comprise, la recherche de n’importe quoi pour arrêter les pensées de tourner en rond et pour oublier cette journée fatale.
Mais l’auteur raconte aussi l’histoire de personnes qui montrent de la bienfaisance, qui ne jugent pas et qui ne posent pas trop de questions, mais qui sont là pour les autres et qui les acceptent comme ils viennent. Au Bunny Bunny, Joanne est un personnage sans passé mais pour qui il y a un présent et peut-être un avenir qu’elle crée elle-même. Une famille composée de personnes en fuite, mais une sorte de famille avec des règles strictes qui donnent de l’orientation pour ceux perdus dans la vie.
Il y ce slogan fameux « What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas » pour attirer les visiteurs avec la promesse que leurs secrets seront bien cachés là-bas, mais ce sont aussi les âmes perdues qui s’y retrouvent. Une ville artificielle qui offre la possibilité de s’inventer de nouveau – et d’oublier d’où on vient.
J’ai bien aimé ce roman plein de compassion qui offre beaucoup à réfléchir.
When her father dies, he leaves a wish in his will that Leslie Flores hasn’t expected: she will only inherit the money if her sister Robin also signs the papers. So she sets out for Las Vegas where Robin is supposed to live. They haven’t talked for a decade and Leslie is all but looking forward to do so now. But when she finally arrives at her sister’s apartment, she finds her dead and apparently, Robin has lived there under a false name. When Leslie makes the acquaintance of young charismatic Mary who dreams of a career as an actress, an idea forms in her head: why not take the woman with her back to Albuquerque and have her play Robin’s role for a couple of days? Nobody has seen her sister for ten years and Mary has some clear resemblance to Robin, so why should anybody become suspicious? It’s is a win-win situation, Mary could take her share of the money and make her start in Hollywood and Leslie would get her part of her father’s inheritance. Mary agrees but soon she realises that the respectable wife and mother also has some secrets she hides.
Tanen Jones’s “The Better Liar” is a highly surprising psychological novel with many unexpected twists and turns. The two protagonists develop from average women into enemies who fight their war on a very high emotional and psychological level. The story is told alternately from their different points of you, thus the reader is always aware of their respective plots and ahead of each character – at least you believe you are, but at certain point you also have to recognise that there are some highly relevant pieces of information they did not reveal to you and this makes things appear in a totally different light.
The novel starts at a rather slow pace with Leslie looking out for her sister and then finding her dead and seeing her father’s money in jeopardy. You wonder why she would take a stranger to her house, especially a house with a very young kid – this seems to be too dangerous, just for the money? Why does she need it, seemingly, she and her husband lead quite a good life. This and the question if she really succeeds with presenting a stranger as her sister seem to be the mystery of the novel, yet, with Mary’s arrival in Albuquerque, the real story slowly unfolds and the plot takes up pace and becomes much more dynamic and gripping.
Tanen Jones wonderfully leads the reader into wrong directions over and over again which I liked a lot. I totally adored how the two women play with each other and was eagerly awaiting the end to see who would finally win their very special game. Yet, some twists lacked a bit plausibility, but from a psychological point of view, a great read.
When he left the UK, Mark Wilkinson also left behind his name and entered the US as Joe Novak. By now, he is known as Mr Jones and selling apartments in Las Vegas. But something from his past is haunting him, he has episodes, hears voices or better: one voice: the one of Bethany, his girl-friend when he was still a teenager and living in England. He is thirty now and Bethany has been dead for thirteen years. He had wanted to leave their sad hometown together with her, to build a life together in New York, but then, she was murdered. After an incident with a client, he returns to England, now to find out the truth about Bethany’s death.
I was eager to read the novel due to the high praise I could read everywhere. After having finished, I am somewhere between disappointed and deeply confused. Either I didn’t get it at all or it absolutely didn’t work for me.
First of all, I had the impression that the first and the second half of the novel didn’t work together at all. It’s like having completely different characters and two independent stories told. In the beginning, we get a lot of clichés about men who are by far too rich and who think they own the world. It might be quite realistic, but not very interesting and ultimately, it leads to nothing for me. The second part, when Mark tries to figure out what happened to Bethany made a lot more sense, even though he hears her ghost talking constantly. I was waiting for the stunning moment when the circumstances of Bethany’s death are revealed, I expected something unusual, unforeseen and really surprising. Yet, this didn’t come. Actually, I didn’t even understand why he had to change his name all the time and what he was running from after all.