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.