Why Men LieBook - 2012
This latest novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Linden MacIntyre, Why Men Lie , offers a moving and emotionally complex conclusion to the Cape Breton trilogy.
Two years after the events of The Bishop's Man , we're introduced to Effie MacAskill Gillis, sister of the troubled priest Duncan. It's 1997, and Effie is an independent, middle-aged woman working as a tenured professor of Celtic Studies, but her complicated and often disappointing love life has left her all but ready to give up on the opposite sex. Then suddenly, a chance encounter with a man on a Toronto subway platform gives Effie renewed hope. J.C. Campbell is an old friend she hasn't seen for more than 20 years - an attractive, single man who appears to possess the stability and good sense she longs for.
Effie met her last husband, Sextus, in her hometown of Cape Breton when the two were still children. As they grew older together, and started a family, she soon learned that when it came to other women, Sextus couldn't be trusted. After one too many betrayals, Effie leaves him behind, and so when she and J.C. seem to hit it off, his relaxed, open demeanour is a welcome change.
But after a happy start to their relationship, cracks begin to show, and J.C. proves himself to be just as unpredictable as the others: one evening Effie spots him in a seedy part of town, but he denies ever having left his house; when she notices a scratch below his eye, he lies about its cause, blaming it on the cat. Then J.C., a journalist, becomes unhealthily engrossed in a story involving a convict on death row, and he and Effie begin to drift apart.
Although he still checks in sporadically and insists there's nothing going on, she soon learns he has a deeply personal reason for his covert trips to that seedy downtown street. In fact, it turns out there's a lot about his past that Effie doesn't know, and a lot he's still learning himself.
While J.C. is busy chasing his own past, Effie is rarely able to escape her own. Family ties and hometown connections to Cape Breton mean her two ex-husbands - Sextus happens to be the cousin of her first husband, John - are constantly coming and going in a turbulent mess of comfort and commotion, while her grown daughter, Cassie, brings some unexpected news of her own.
After all of her experience in relationships with men, Effie thought she knew all she needed to about what to expect, and how to maintain her self-sufficiency. Why do men lie? , she wants to know. But whether it's for love, for protection, or for more selfish reasons, Effie soon learns that no amount of experience can prepare you for what might resurface from the past, and for the damage that might cause, emotionally or otherwise.
From the critics
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Fans of CanLit likely remember Linden MacIntyre’s 2009 Giller Prize win for *The Bishop’s Man*, the second novel in his Cape Breton triology. Having made readers wait 10 years between the trilogy’s opener, *The Long Stretch,* and his prize-winning follow-up, MacIntyre evidently felt a rush to move on with the final novel in the trilogy, *Why Men Lie.* Was the rush worthwhile?<br />
It’s a provocative title, to be sure, and it’s a reasonably bold book, examining its titular question through the eyes and life of a female character. This final novel follows the life of Effie MacAskill, sister to Father Duncan MacAskill, central character in *The Bishop’s Man.* It doesn’t directly stare down such heavy material as the child sexual abuse that forms the plot backbone of *The Bishop’s Man.* It has its own agenda, interested in the more general effects such atrocities have on communities and individuals’ private lives.<br />
Effie is well into a contented-enough solitary middle age when she runs into an old Cape Breton friend on the St George subway platform in Toronto. JC has been off-the-radar with her crew for years, having been part of a crop of Canadian journalists recruited to American networks in the 1970s. His work has taken him all over the world and through countless human rights atrocities. Suffering the psychological trauma not uncommon in his line of work, he decides to come back to a tamer beat in Canada. The two embark on a tentative relationship, but it’s immediately apparent their respective baggage and Cape Breton ties threaten their bond and their health. <br />
If this sounds like an overwhelmingly heavy read - well, it is and it isn’t, but the end result is entirely worthwhile. MacIntyre is the master of the light touch, using one well-timed phrase in dialogue or a raised eyebrow to convey what other writers would need pages to illustrate. This approach allows readers to - in a sense - choose their level of exposure to the darker themes that run through the novel. Tightly written, and with a photographic capture of Cape Breton culture and dialogue, this novel is highly recommended to any fans of dark, character-driven Canadian literature.<br />
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"And they're moving to Sudbury," she said. "He's going a new practice there."
"It would take quite a bit of work," Duncan said. "It should be jacked up, and a proper basement dug."
"I doubt they'd want it," Effie said. "Even if we could forget what happened, it's ugly here. Nothing you'd want to look at. No vistas."
"You never know what people see in a place," Duncan said. "Have you ever been to Sudbury?"
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