The Liar's Diary

Patry Francis, Author . Dutton $24.95 (311p) ISBN 978-0-525-94990-9

A case study in the explosive effects of extreme denial, Francis's debut relies completely on its very unreliable narrator, with mixed results. When local violinist and composer Ali Mather, a very sexy 46, comes to teach music at the Bridgeway high school where narrator Jeanne Cross, a very plain 37, is the secretary, teachers and students alike are abuzz. Ali is separated from her mild husband George, and is soon sleeping with the 31-year-old shop teacher, Brian Shagaury (and also with car dealer Jack Butterfield). Jeanne is married to a buff orthopedic surgeon, Gavin, with whom she has an overweight, dyslexic 16-year-old son, Jamie, who attends the school. An unlikely friendship develops between the seemingly steady Jeanne and acting-out Ali, and Jeanne's purposefully flat narration is effective in doling out disorienting incongruities (as in the offhanded way Jeanne develops a serious pill habit). Ali's provocative lifestyle eventually intersects directly with Jeanne's home life. When tragedy strikes, Jeanne's Stepford routine holds for a while, then becomes a giveaway. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/29/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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