My Lie: A True Story of False Memory


My Lie

"To admit a grave sin committed against a loved one is hard. Tobe able to write about it with honesty and grace is extraordinary.My Lie tells a story no reader will—orshould—forget."
KATHRYN HARRISON, author of The Kiss

Meredith Maran lived a daughter's nightmare. At agethirty-seven, an award-winning journalist and mother of two, sheaccused her father of sexual abuse. Ten years later she ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $7.68   
  • Used (13) from $1.99   


My Lie

"To admit a grave sin committed against a loved one is hard. Tobe able to write about it with honesty and grace is extraordinary.My Lie tells a story no reader will—orshould—forget."
KATHRYN HARRISON, author of The Kiss

Meredith Maran lived a daughter's nightmare. At agethirty-seven, an award-winning journalist and mother of two, sheaccused her father of sexual abuse. Ten years later she realized,nearly too late, that he was innocent.

She wasn't alone. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, beginning withthe infamous McMartin preschool trial, a sex-abuse panic spreadacross the country. Tens of thousands of Americans became convincedthat they'd repressed memories of unspeakable childhood sexualabuse. Preschool teachers, fathers, even mothers were falselyaccused. Communities and families were devastated. Someperpetrators were rightly punished, but hundreds of innocents weresent to jail. Several remain imprisoned today.

Maran's accusation and estrangement from her father caused hersons to grow up without their only grandfather, dividing her familyinto those who believed her and those who didn't. She isolatedherself on "Planet Incest," where "survivors" flocked totherapy—devoting their lives, and life savings, to"recovering" memories of events that had never occurred.

This no-holds-barred excavation of Maran's past raises questionsof vital importance to us all. How did Maran, and so many others,come to believe the same lie at the same time? How does the braincollude with the culture to create false memories and encode falsebeliefs? What are the "big lies" gaining traction in Americatoday—and how can we keep them from taking hold?

My Lie is the wrenchingly honest, profoundly human storyof the impact of this modern-day witch hunt on one woman's life andfamily: a daughter's search for understanding; a journalist'sintimate portrait of a shameful episode in American history.

"I accused my father of molesting me. I didn't see him or talkto him for eight years. I didn't let my kids see him for eightyears, either. And then I realized that it wasn't true."

". . . my eighty-year-old father had been diagnosed withatherosclerosis, diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer's disease.With the possible exception of the diabetes, I blamed myself forall of it."

". . . suddenly, pretending it hadn't happened wasn't an optionanymore."
From the Prologue

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this terrifying, haunting, and controversial memoir, award-winning journalist Meredith Maran delves into the fascinating subject of the recovered memory movement.... Maran's not just shockingly honest, she's also funny. Her refusal to whitewash her own behavior, her fierce ability to expose all sides of the issue (she doesn't deny that horrific abuse does occur and should be punished), and her compassion for the abused as well as those still falsely imprisoned as abusers opens up a dialogue about memory, belief, and past- and present-day culture that is as riveting as it is important." (Boston Globe, September 21, 2010)

"Maran's story is so tension-filled that I want to keep some of the twists out of this review, allowing readers of this remarkable book to discover them apart from me." (San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 2010)

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470502143
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,312,066
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Meredith Maran is an award-winning journalist and the author of several best-selling nonfiction books, among them Dirty, Class Dismissed, and What It's Like to Live Now. Her work appears in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines including People, Self, Family Circle, More, Mother Jones, the San Francisco Chronicle, and A member of the National Book Critics Circle, she lives in Oakland, California.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Author's Note.

Prologue: The Same Thing Happened to Me.

Introduction: One in Three.

Part One 1576-1982.

Chapter One Desperate Housewife.

Chapter Two In Feminism We Trust.

Part Two 1983-1993.

Chapter Three Please Question Your Child (and Your Childhood).

Chapter Four Breaking the Silence.

Chapter Five Daddy Can't Come Home Again.

Chapter Six Remember.

Chapter Seven Did He or Didn't He?

Chapter Eight In Therapy We Trust.

Part Three 1994-2009.

Chapter Nine Doubt.

Chapter Ten Deprogramming.

Chapter Eleven What Was I Thinking?

Chapter Twelve Eternal Sunshine of the Recovered Mind.

Chapter Thirteen In Neuroscience We Trust.

Chapter Fourteen Amends.

Epilogue: Grace.


About the Author.

Book Group Reading Guide.9780470502143

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2010

    Measured and Compelling

    I can't remember the last time I stayed up far too late into the night for a book of non-fiction, but My Lie had me doing just that. From the title, I expected an intimate tell-all memoir, and I did get that. But I found it a surprisingly - and refreshingly - measured and balanced one. Part of what made this revelatory story so compelling was the mix of personal story with societal examination. Yes, there are children who were abused. But there are also families that were torn apart by 'memories" that never actually happened. Meredith Maran's intimate telling of her own personal story, mixed with considerable discussion of the science of the brain and press clips from sources including Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, puts the issue of "recovered memory" into a context that made me think, and want to know that which isn't, unfortunately, always knowable.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 5, 2010

    Excellent book about a difficult subject

    I tried to find this book in the library system in Massachusetts. It was not available. And so I bought it, received it promply and then read it in one sitting. Meredith Maran writes with honesty and compassion and a great deal of intelligence. Her research is extremely well done. She mentions The Courage to Heal by Bass and Davis and I suppose their advocates will not like that too much. She used their book to find memories of her childhood abuse by her father. She eventually decided that he did not abuse her and she was just another victim of the sexual abuse hysteria that is still going on. One of the most poignant legacies of her accusing her father of sexual abuse was her brother and his daughter. He was afraid to hug and get close to his daugher because of her accusation against their father. I think that problem is still with us. An accusation of sexual abuse is not a small thing. It looms large in the fabric of a family. And the hurt and horror go on and on. I pity a man who is falsely accused of sexually abusing his daughter. He is put into a hell not of his own making. And the way out depends on his daughter facing up to her mistake and trying to make it better. Meredith Maran has done this with her book. She is to be commended for facing her mistake honestly and rectifying it in the best way she can. And her father is pleased with her and that is a good outcome. He is a generous father. He knew we cannot undo our mistakes, but can only fix them the best we can. She did it with this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2010

    Terrible book

    I would not recommend this book. It appears she never had any specific memories like many abuse survivors. The book attacks the idea of recovered memory, yet there is a lot of research that backs up the idea and veracity of recovered memory. -- A brief on the Shanley case with information on memory can be found by searching for "BRIEF OF THE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL AS AMICUS CURIAE Shanleybrief" states "That the brain can avoid conscious recall of traumatic information has long been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and the professional mental health community."

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 20, 2010

    A Nuanced and Detailed Account

    I enjoyed the narrative, confessional style of the writing. It was not written in a "sensational" way to leverage on "shock value," just with a flow of honesty and precision with analyzing the events of this "true story of false memory" (as the subtitle states).

    I thoroughly enjoyed the journalistic touch to the book, such as the media clippings in between the main text, and the fierce investigation for the facts (justified according to the criteria of the time being perpetuated as the truth, such as having symbolic dreams) behind the author's beliefs for having repressed memories. This eventually culminates in an admission on the author's part that she had perpetrated a devastating injustice upon her own family, as a result of this modern-day episode of mass hysteria.

    As I wrote in a comment on one of the reviews on Amazon, I do not think that Ms. Maran is speaking for people who have had genuine, recovered memories of abuse. This does not mean she does not care for these people, or discounts their memories entirely. The book is an account of [HER] LIE--a story of false memories, and believing that one was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, when in actual fact, one wasn't. She is sharing her experience, and people who went through this same "brainwashing"/"Planet Incest" experience, will be able to identify with her account. Nowhere in the book does she state that "and therefore, this means that those who did experience real sexual abuse, are all liars (because I realized I was falsely convincing myself into believing I'd had repressed memories of unspeakable childhood abuse)."

    The two situations are completely different, and should be clearly distinguished in a person's mind, before they accuse the author of being hypocritical towards those who truly did have recovered memories. What about those who, like the author, were subject to this mass hysteria, and led themselves to believe that they had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse? Those are the people who have been through trauma as well--based on public psyche and the whole "sex-abuse panic."

    This book is one account of an individual who came to an eventual realization of the deception, and had the courage and clarity of conscience to take steps to rectify the damage she and her loved ones suffered, as a result of the deception (which was encouraged by psychologists/therapists of the time--such was the fashion, then). And it's a brave, intense, well-written account. It is evident that those who went through a similar experience appreciate this memoir.

    "My Lie: A True Story of False Memory"--there couldn't be a more accurate title and subtitle. Best wishes to Ms. Maran.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)