E. Lockhart's new young adult novel "We Were Liars" is the somewhat convoluted, and at times entertaining, first person narrative about Cady Sinclair's painful struggle to discover the causes of her amnesia and remember her past. Cady had an accident while on vacation with her family and now suffers headaches and amnesia. She does not remember her 15th summer or the accident.
The backdrop to this novel is Shakespeare's King Lear and the grasping, clawing family seeking to inherit their father's wealth. But just in case the reader does not see the King Lear antecedents to the story, Lockhart piles on by adding small fables or fairy tale interludes in the midst of the novel each about kings, their children and princesses, who disappoint each other. A few stories may have worked, but there are too many in this novel.
Cady, who is the eldest, and Mirrin and Johnny, her two cousins, are Harris and Tipper Sinclair's oldest grandchildren of each of their three grown divorced daughters. The Sinclairs are multi-millionaires, who trace their lineage back to the Mayflower.
Every summer the Sinclair clan vacations on Beechwood Island, which is owned by Granddad Sinclair. Granddad has built a house for each of his daughters and their families. Granddad and Tipper live in the fourth house, Claremont, a beautiful house filled with art. Johnny's mother is dating Ed Patil, and has been bringing to the island Ed's nephew, Gat Patil, to vacation with the family for years. Although frowned on by the eldest Sinclairs, Cady has feelings for Gat, who seems to reciprocate, while on Beechwood, but none of the families really see each other during the rest of the year and Cady and Gat only see each other on Beechwood.
The story starts out when Cady, Mirrin, Johnny and Gat are young and shows how the four of them are best friends while on Beechwood. Lockhart does spend more than a little time talking about Cady's mother's spending ways.
When Grandma Tipper passes away, the family "tips" into imbalance as each of the three Aunts start to claw and connive to get the lion share of their father's great wealth.
Now for her 15th summer, Cady and the family reconvene for vacation on Beechwood Island. But the story does not go there. Instead, Lockhart skips ahead. All we really learn now is that Cady had an accident and is found near a little beach, alone in her underwear. She remembers nothing of what caused the accident. We do not even know the full extent of her injuries. All is lost in the fog of Cady's amnesia and the reader only learns that Cady has painful migraines and amnesia and a supposed brain injury, one, however, that the doctors cannot find.
Cady has been giving away her possessions to others. Her pillow, her picture of her grandmother, her favorite books. She is depressed. Her cousins and Gat have not returned her emails or visited her while she was in the hospital. She is sick and her brain does not work and she dreams horrible dreams about her grandfather sawing into her head. Why does she have this pain? What happened to her? Has she lost her mind? Cady has spent the last summer vacationing around Europe with her father. Her mother and her doctors did not want her to revisit Beechwood.
Now she is 17 and her Mother is letting her go back to Beechwood Island for 4 weeks to see if it will help with her memory. When she gets there, she discovers that Granddad has rebuilt his home into a modern mansion with little of the mementos of his life with Tipper. Cady, who is taking pain medicine, is staying with her Mother but visits frequently with Gat, Mirrin and Johnny, who are all living alone in one of the houses on the island. Cady tries to get her three friends to reveal what happened to her.
Slowly she starts to remember little bits of her life and what happened, but Lockhart keeps a tight lid on it until at some point Cady starts to remember and we are thrust back in time to her 15th summer on Beechwood. It is a time of feuding among the Aunts and domination by Granddad, who wants them to toe his line. It is also a time of teenage rebellion.
But is not until the big reveal in the end of the book that we learn the whole story about how sometimes the best of intentions go awry.
Cady's story will make one think about teenage rebellion, greed and the the pitfalls of having great wealth and conniving young. While Lockhart foreshadows that Gat wanted to right injustice, I never felt moved to believe that the other three would join into the actions they took. But its an interesting tale and worth the read.