The Liar’s Chair – Rebecca Whitney

The Liar’s Chair, a haunting psychological thriller that worms its way into your brain, takes hold, and won’t let go, is the story of Rachel and David Teller. They run a highly successful business together; they live in a beautiful home; they are the model of upper-middle-class wealth and happiness. It’s all a façade, but from the outside looking in, you wouldn’t know it…until it happens.

Rachel is driving drunk, on her way home from her lover’s apartment, when she hits and kills a homeless man. David, determined to hide her crime and protect their “perfect” life, destroys all the evidence and demands that Rachel act as though nothing happened. Rachel, though, is consumed by grief and guilt, and is determined to atone for her crime however she can. She must do so in secret to avoid David’s wrath, but as time goes on and she learns more about the man she killed, her mind strains under the weight of her shame and she begins to get careless…

The Liar’s Chair is a fantastic debut by Rebecca Whitney. The story was tense all the way through, and it went some places that I really didn’t think it would go (how naïve of me…). If you want something that’s going to keep you up at night—whether because you can’t stop reading or because your mind keeps racing after you’ve stopped reading—The Liar’s Chair is a good choice.

It was shockingly easy to get tangled up in Rachel’s thoughts—I felt a little bit like my own mind was coming unraveled as I watched Rachel’s do the same. I’d say about 90% of the book is Rachel’s inner monologue; she carries the reader around in her head, and we are privy to her most private thoughts. What we are not always privy to are the actual events of the novel as they happen; many times, chapters begin with Rachel thinking about something that has happened between the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this one.

Living almost entirely in Rachel’s head for the duration of the novel is what makes The Liar’s Chair so intriguing. Hearing about an event in the past tense instead of living it through Rachel’s eyes gives an interesting jump-cut feeling, as though Rachel—and, by extension, the reader—has experienced a blackout. Of course, this is certainly not out of the question for Rachel, the alcoholic pill-popper, but it was an interesting narrative choice nonetheless. And one that was certainly appropriate to the subject matter.

Like Rose Madder, The Liar’s Chair is, at it’s core, a portrait of an abusive relationship. While the relationships portrayed in each share very few similarities, the reality is that all abusive relationships are different, and there is no “perfect victim.” The cycle of abuse is a scary, scary thing, and it’s not easy to break—as Rachel Teller well knows. I’m going to include here the same notes and resources that I included in my review of Rose Madder; while I hope none of you will ever need them, I hope that they help you if you do.

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There’s been a lot of conversation surrounding the topic of domestic violence in the wake of high-profile celebrity cases in the past few years: Rihanna/Chris Brown, Ray/Janay Rice, Adrian Peterson. It’s been a long time coming, and for it to finally be in the forefront of our minds is the first step to eliminating it. But it’s no secret that we have a long way to go, and I want to use this review to remind everyone of a few things we should all remember about domestic abuse:

  • Domestic abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. Some bruises don’t show on the surface. Not all abuse is physical.
  • Abusers often “gaslight” their victims by making them think that they’re crazy, that their emotions are abnormal, and/or that things didn’t happen the way the victim remembers them. This is part of what makes it so hard for victims to leave.
  • Just because a couple looks happy on the outside, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something going on behind the scenes. Don’t assume a marriage is happy from its public face.
  • Though victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly female (or children), men can be victims, too. If you know a man who claims to be the victim of domestic abuse, don’t dismiss his complaints as “unmanly” or tell him to “suck it up.” There’s a reason that men hardly ever report being abused.
  • If you know someone who is being abused, or you are being abused, there are many resources at your disposal. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE. Here’s a list of additional resources you can contact.

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