cover image The Fake

The Fake

Zoe Whittall. Ballantine, $28 (208p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9944-1

Two people are deceived by the same trickster in the diverting latest from Whittall (The Best Kind of People). Thirty-something Shelby joins a support group after her wife dies from an aneurism. There, she meets Cammie, the eponymous phony, who’s delighted to encounter someone else who’s under 40. Shelby, meanwhile, wonders what Cammie’s doing there; “She looks too good to be in mourning,” Shelby thinks, “like an Instagram ad.” A parallel narrative follows recent divorcé Gibson, 39, who meets Cammie at a bar and is immediately taken by the wild younger woman who beats him at poker and suggests they have sex as a consolation prize. Shelby and Gibson both enter a honeymoon phase with Cammie (Shelby’s is platonic, though she continues to harbor a crush), but after the two meet, Cammie’s stories about performing on an Arcade Fire album and having a dead sister plus a cancer diagnosis unravel. The somewhat predictable narrative echoes TV shows like Inventing Anna and The Tinder Swindler, though there are deeper thrills in witnessing those in Cammie’s orbit untangle their self-delusions. There aren’t many surprises, but Whittall brings plenty of verve to the proceedings. Agent: Samantha Haywood, Transatlantic Agency. (Mar.)