The Comfort of Liesby Randy Susan Meyers
From the author of the critically acclaimed The Murderer’s Daughters, a compelling novel about three women caught in the aftermath of infidelity.
“Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgment from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year, she’d waited to be punished/b>/b>/i>
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From the author of the critically acclaimed The Murderer’s Daughters, a compelling novel about three women caught in the aftermath of infidelity.
“Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgment from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year, she’d waited to be punished for being in love, and in truth, she believed that whatever consequences came her way would be deserved.”
Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption.
Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother.
Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again, and she trusted him.
But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.
Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.
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Read an Excerpt
The Comfort of Lies
Juliette usually listened to music while she worked, but not today. She was stealing from Sunday family time—and a sunny Sunday at that—while the boys watched a video downstairs. Silence ensured she could hear her sons.
Guilt kept her company, even though she and Nathan had devoted every second of the morning and early afternoon to the boys. They’d taken a short hike at Beaver Brook Reservation, and then eaten a picnic lunch prepared by Juliette, complete with the Rice Krispies Treats she’d stirred up at six that morning, and then played an hour of goofy softball. Afterward, Nathan left for an afternoon of correcting papers, and she snuck up to get in a few hours of paperwork.
It wasn’t as though they weren’t having togetherness; tomorrow night they’d drive into Boston and watch the fireworks. Still, she worried. Bright light poured in the windows, and her boys were in the living room staring at the television.
Terrific. Juliette hoped her kids appreciated all the unlined women on the street, knowing that their mother had traded their brains, health, and security for furrow serums.
Furrow had tested better as a problem to be solved than wrinkle. Maybe furrow sounded like a woman crinkling from thoughts rather than age.
Perhaps they should call it crinkle serum. Crinkle sounded kind of happy, right?
Sure. She pictured her business partner Gwynne hooting when Juliette shared that the next time they had one of their creative meetings. Juliette and Gwynne had met in Mommy and Me swim classes, drawn to each other through a shared mutual head-exploding boredom with the minutiae of motherhood, coupled with tendencies to overworship their children. They’d fallen in love with one sardonic glance, the way that best friends sometimes do, recognizing a kinship of lonely childhoods.
Juliette listened for disaster. When she worked, she worried about Max and Lucas. When she devoted herself to them, she worried about business. Nathan tried to solve the problem by telling her to r-e-l-a-x. “Concentrate on where you are,” he’d say, as though she could will herself out of worrying. Perhaps a male genetic pattern similar to male pattern baldness allowed Nathan to go to work and be at work. He couldn’t imagine life any other way.
She knew Nathan wanted to help. He tried to solve every problem that came his way; he always had. Taking care of people pleased him, so much so that she sensed it disappointed him that she asked for so little when it came to her work, but how could he help with a business built on balm for women’s skin? Nathan taught sociology at Brandeis University and researched the plight of the elderly, which, in his mind, she was certain, did not include their crinkles or furrows.
This was the year that her balancing act would pay off. She just knew it. Years of investing every free moment in work—even as she pretended her preoccupation with cosmetics and skin care barely broke from being a hobby; concocting potions until three in the morning and then making breakfast for everyone at seven—would be worth it.
The kids came first. Nathan’s schedule, second. Then came cooking, cleaning, birthdays, Halloween, Passover, Chanukah, and Christmas—anchoring her family. That’s how she thought of it. Juliette loved her work to an unholy degree, but she worked equally hard to hide her obsession, always a bit ashamed of how much passion she felt about her business.
Creating organic skincare and makeup couldn’t be compared with saving lives. juliette&gwynne was even potentially an unkind business, building on women’s fear, though she and Gwynne kept it clean and honest. No promises of unborn-sperm-cell-laden cream guaranteed to eliminate wrinkles or furrows were offered, just assurances that their products would make the best of what nature had given. They didn’t tout faces frozen in time, but faces and bodies smoothed gracefully. Nothing depressed Juliette more than seeing older women with wind-tunneled faces wearing the Juicy Couture label emblazoned on their behinds.
juliette&gwynne had a place in the world, she and Gwynne assured each other, even writing lists of the ways they helped women:
• Bought shea butter (only grade-A) from women’s collective in Ghana.
• Packaging made by a women’s collective in Appalachia.
• Donated products to a battered women’s shelter.
Gwynne took an extra long pull from her beer last week, when they’d added that last one, and then said, “Are we really comforting ourselves with this? Providing moisturizer and lipstick to battered women? Jesus, Jules, wouldn’t they rather have a check?”
“I know, I know.” Juliette had leaned back in the cracked leather chair donated from Gwynne’s husband’s law office. Two rooms in Juliette’s falling-apart Waltham house served as the offices for juliette&gwynne//flush de la beauté. “When we make a ton of money, we’ll give a ton away.”
Maybe someday they’d be rich. She never told anyone, not even Nathan, how she hungered for money. It made her seem like her mother. God save her, Juliette loved things. Well-cut clothes. Thin china. Fat comforters.
All this and healthy, happy children.
First, always first, please, healthy, happy children.
In reaction against her own childhood, Juliette guarded against showing pride. Her mother’s devotion to the sheen of one’s skin and the drape of one’s clothes had resulted in Juliette’s impersonating a woman without narcissism. In truth, it was the opposite. Juliette lacked her mother’s self-confidence, and a shameful amount of her mind was preoccupied with her appearance.
At least, in the case of juliette&gwynne, her secret vice had value. The business was borne of Juliette’s vanity. After giving up her Looks column at Boston magazine to stay home with Lucas, and then Max, her addiction to high-end products became impossible to sustain. Nathan’s professor’s salary covered only the basics. She experimented at home, mixing moisturizers from ingredients ranging from frankincense to chamomile, and inventing body scrubs made from sugar, oats, and even coffee grounds.
“Mommy!” Five-year-old Max flew in and leapt on the battered sofa, dislodging papers and product samples. “I’m hungry!” He nestled close to Juliette.
Lucas appeared at the door. “I told you to stay in the playroom.” He grabbed his brother by the shirt collar. “Come on. I’ll get you a granola bar.”
Babysitting money fueled her older son’s enthusiasm, but his attention to the job impressed Juliette, even as she feared that in his zeal he might detach Max’s head from his body. She uncurled Lucas’s fingers from Max’s shirt and smiled. “It’s okay. Let’s all go downstairs. Daddy will be home soon. You guys can draw in the dining room while I make supper.”
Juliette took out the chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, and diced carrots and cauliflower she’d prepared at seven that morning while Nathan and the kids slept, in anticipation of making mushroom barley soup for dinner. With chicken. Now she took out the plastic containers and lined them up in the order in which she’d sauté them before she added chicken stock.
She cut up chicken breasts, leaving on just enough skin to add depth to the soup without overwhelming Nathan’s heart.
He’d had her heart from the first moment they’d met, when Nathan moved from Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where Juliette grew up. He’d come for his first teaching job, working in the sociology department at Bard College. Her father headed the Political Science department.
They’d met at her parents’ annual holiday party at their house in Rhinebeck, a Hudson Valley town that attracted former New Yorkers. Musky men’s cologne vied with the heavy scents of Chanel and Joy. The women either sparkled or were romantic in dusty velvet. Their men wore suits or reindeer sweaters. Juliette stood out in her midthigh-length sapphire dress.
Nathan walked up to her as she stood drinking eggnog and watching her mother work the room. His tie, which from afar looked like blended tones of blue, had Stars of David woven into the cloth.
She reached out and traced one. “Pronouncement?”
“Chanukah gift from my parents.”
“Are they marking you?”
“I’m too far from Brooklyn: they’re warding off shiksas bearing tiny gold crucifixes.”
Juliette touched the empty hollow of her throat in some odd reflex. “Lucky me. I’m only half. Shiksa, that is.”
He swept his arm toward her parents’ light-crusted tree, so tall that it brushed the ceiling. Garlands laced with red ribbons and crystal snowflakes were intertwined with evergreen on the staircase, visible from where they stood. He touched a soft blonde wave framing her face. “Where in God’s name does your family hide the other half?”
Juliette took his hand. “Come. I’ll show you.”
She took his hand and led him to the quiet library, mercifully free of glitter.
“See?” She pointed to the library mantel where a cobalt glass menorah sat between matching dreidels.
“I don’t imagine you ever played with those.”
Juliette placed a careful finger on the glass. “No.”
She’d rarely played with anything outside her room as a child. Her parents’ home, cared for as though it were a sacred object, was her rival for her parents’ affection, and to Juliette it usually seemed as though the house won. Juliette’s parents seemed to think the house represented them more than their daughter. Why else would she get only benign neglect, while every corner of the house received unremitting attention?
“Do you live here with your parents?” he asked.
“Not since I came home on college vacations.”
“You don’t like Rhinebeck?” he asked.
“There’s not much here, unless you’re involved with Bard.” His hair was thick and straight. Hollywood black.
She slept with him that night.
“You’re besotted,” her mother said the next day when Juliette returned from Nathan’s apartment.
Besotted. Her mother had found the perfect word. The night with Nathan had been explosive before slowing to billowing softness. She’d been struck and so had he, the two of them barely able to separate that afternoon. The moment Nathan dropped her off, she’d wanted to be back with him.
Juliette smoothed her rumpled party dress. “You’re right.”
Her mother removed lint from Juliette’s hem. “Don’t let him see that—not now. It gives them too much power when they see how much you care.”
Juliette thought how sad those words were as she poured olive oil in the pan. How could you hide your love? Did her mother still do that, even as she closed in on forty years married? Her parents were knotted to a degree Juliette envied and hated, but she refused to believe it was built on tricks. Her father and mother loved each other so completely and unreservedly—except for Dad loving a bit more, just as Mom wanted—that Juliette never had a chance. Growing up, their marriage had seemed a two plus one to her, with Juliette the plus to their tight couple. All her life, she’d danced on the outskirts of her parents’ love.
• • •
Oil sizzled. She threw in the onions. Nathan walked in. Juliette grinned wide, as she did each time he appeared. She still loved him to distraction. Maybe even more. Having children together struck her as the sexiest possible thing you could do with another person.
They kissed. He touched her back with a light hand. His fingers rested on her shoulders in a way that years of marriage told her bore no good. Something troubled him.
“Where are the boys?” he asked.
“Arts and crafts in the dining room.” She threw in the garlic and mushrooms when the onions reached peak translucency. “I think I heard Lucas sneak on the TV, but I’m being a bad mother and not noticing until I finish making supper. Now that you’re home, feel free to go in and chastise him.”
After wiping her hands on the towel tucked in her waistband, she turned and hugged him. The rigidity of his muscles under her hands frightened her.
“What’s wrong?” She pushed him away, so she could look at his face. His eyes held emotions she couldn’t read, except for the fear. “Your parents? Is your father okay?” Had his father suffered another heart attack? Worse?
Nathan shook his head.
“Work? Did something happen?”
“No.” Nathan took a deep breath.
“What then? You look awful. Are you sick?”
He went to the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of brandy. Nathan, never the type to drink when he got home, poured a double shot.
Juliette put down her long wooden spoon. Her parents? Her father? Had her mother called Nathan so that he could break some awful news to Juliette? Bubbles of dread flipped around her stomach. He dropped into a kitchen chair. She sat facing him, so close their knees touched.
When she took his hands, they were cold. She lifted one to her cheek and ran it over her warm skin. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
He lowered his face, his hands covering hers. His shoulders shook as he began to cry. Everything inside Juliette froze.
“I had an affair, Jules. Oh my God, I’m so sorry.”
What People are saying about this
“I devoured this book. Randy Susan Meyers writes with great empathy and insight about three distinct women and the unlikely intersection of their lives. The story will pull you into the uncomfortable space where truths are confronted, and lead you to the other side where the world looks brighter. A sensitive exploration of why we take refuge in the comfort of lies, and what happens when we dare to release ourselves from their power.” —Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of New York Times bestseller Secret Daughter
"I spent many blissful, addicted hours with The Comfort of Lies, totally hooked on needing to know what happened next in the braided stories of Tia, Caroline, and Juliette. Meyers has an uncanny ability to get inside women whose circumstances dramatically divide them and show how at heart, we're all the same. Another unforgettable Meyers smash-hit." – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
"A fast-paced multi-narrator story that gets to the heart of the trade-offs of motherhood. You will be drawn in by these characters because of the mystery at the novel's center and relate to the ways in which they each create their own loneliness while surrounded by others." —Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
"The Comfort of Lies explores a complex and beautiful web of relationships between three very different women whose lives intersect in startling and heartrending ways. This is my favorite kind of read: a page-turner soaked in empathy with an elegant understanding of the human heart. Randy Susan Meyers is a first rate talent." —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
“Insightful, unsettling, and ultimately hopeful, The Comfort of Lies is a compelling, multilayered story. Randy Susan Meyers skillfully exposes the insecurities and strengths of three women who find their lives forever reshaped in the far-reaching wake of a little girl’s adoption.” —Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
“A novel about love, that explores its meaning with wise restlessness and no easy answers. Profound, clear-sighted and more than a bit slyly funny, this is a book to read, to reread and to share.” —Robin Black, author of If I loved you, I would tell you this
"Randy Susan Meyers' thoughtful, gripping new novel explores the unlikely intersection of three women in crisis. The result is a haunting exploration of the secrets we keep - and how, in the aftermath of their detonation, shattered lives can be mended. Meyers is a major talent, and her writing is a gift to readers everywhere." —Sarah Pekkanen, author of These Girls
Meet the Author
Randy Susan Meyers is the bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage, The Comfort of Lies, and The Murderer’s Daughters. Her books have twice been finalists for the Mass Book Award and named “Must Read Books” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. She lives with her husband in Boston, where she teaches writing at the Grub Street Writers’ Center.
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Tightly written story of how infidelity can spill over into affecting far more than the intial two people involved. From the child borne from the affair, to wife of the man cheating, to the couple who adopted the child--nobody was is left unscathed.
Three very different women, all bound by their connection to one small child, their stories converging in a novel you'll willingly miss sleep and food to read!
The Comfort of Lies is a strong story of three women all dealing with their lives and how they intertwine with each other. The story starts five years ago. The first woman is Tia. Tia entered into an affair with a married man, Nathan. When she ended up pregnant, he left her and she gave up the baby for adoption. Next is Caroline. Caroline has an extremely important job with long hours, but adopted Tia’s baby just to please her husband, Peter. She is now questioning whether she can be a mother and wife. Finally, there is Juliette, Nathan’s wife. Nathan told Juliette of his affair with Tia, but never mentioned that Tia was pregnant when he walked away from her. Juliette finds a letter in the mail from Tia to Nathan. Inside the letter are pictures of their daughter. This crumbles Juliette’s world. Fast forward five years. All the woman know of each other and are trying to put the lives back in the right. Each woman had their own life and their own flaws. I enjoyed watching each work through their life and figure out how to live again. Tia struggled with her decision to give up the baby and never gave up the idea of loving Nathan. Caroline struggled with being an adoptive child’s mother. Felling like she has no right to complain, as all mothers do at times, because her child is adopted. Juliette is just angry. Angry with everyone, but not sure why. It was extremely touching and real watching each woman move through their struggles. I found Nathan to be the man I wanted to hate, but somehow I couldn’t. He came across as devoted and sorry for the affair. Devoting his life to his current family, not giving a second thought to his affair or Tia. When it all came back to the front burner, he tried to deal with it, but struggled as any person would. The baby, Savannah, was also given a place to give her point of view. I loved how it was a focal point and that Savannah was left to be a child. Not made too old or mature. The feelings she had were true to what an adopted child put in the position of knowing her biological parents should feel and question. I was totally into this story. Caught from the beginning and unable to put it down. This is definitely more than just a chic-lit novel. It has heart and feeling along with a real life story. Anyone who picks this novel up will love it.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Three women who are interwoven in this book and some don't know the connections that exist between them, one knows all of the details, good and bad. Tia, had an affair with a married man and when she became pregnant he ran for the door. Juliette is married to this cheating man, but only knows bits and pieces of the full story. Caroline is the adoptive mother of the child and may be the most clueless of the bunch, of the story and of herself and her own true happiness.
I had the good luck to read an early copy of this book, and fell in love with the complexities of three women, their commitment (and claim) to one child, and their complicated relationships with the men in their lives. Not all women approach or experience motherhood in the same way, and this book dares to ask, Does anyone “deserve” to be a mother more than another? I loved The Murderer’s Daughters, and Meyers has applied her same emotional-honesty radar to this book. She writes with heart and wisdom and, most importantly, without any easy judgement.
Incredible writing. I'm hooked.
The lives of three women intersect, because of one man. Nathan is married to Juliette and they have two boys and a beautiful life together. For reasons he can't explain he begins an affair with Tia, a young woman from the South side of Boston. Nathan has the best of two worlds until Tia tells him she is expecting a baby. Nathan tells her to take care of it and walks out of her life. He later confesses his affair to his wife. Tia trying to redeem herself from having an affair with a married man refuses to have an abortion. Instead Tia decides the best choice is adoption. Caroline is a dedicated pathologist, she works long hours and hates leaving her lab. But she loves her husband very much and he's pressuring her to adopt a baby. Against her better judgement she follows through with the adoption. Five years later, Tia can't let the idea of Nathan go. When her yearly envelope arrives with pictures of her young daughter Tia decides to send a letter to Nathan. When the letter and pictures arrive at Nathan's home, its his wife Juliette who gets the letter. Nathan never told her there was a baby, and yet there in front of her is the proof of his affair...a little girl who looks remarkably like their youngest son. Juliette becomes obsessed with the little girl and where she is. It doesn't take long before the lives of these three women become more entangled and the outcome for all of them is uncertain. Talk about a book you can't put down! The more I read the more I was captivated by the story. I mean I didn't even know how I wanted things to play out in the end! I kept thinking what's going to happen? Oh I don't like her or I get her, but. None of these women are perfect. You have Tia on one hand that is simply a hot mess. She needed to move on from the life that disappeared five years ago or more the life she thought she was going to have. Then Caroline, I couldn't relate to her work before everything focus. But I did like that she was trying to the best of her ability. Last, Juliette who I got. I can't imagine finding out my husband cheated. Then you work so hard to move forward to find out there was even more to the story?!? Yet, I felt for her wanting her marriage even though it was broken. Each woman feels a connection to the child. Each woman questions what it means to be a mother. Each woman has to deal with an inner struggle. I never knew exactly where the story was headed, I didn't know where I wanted it to go. In the end, perfect ending. Loved everything about this book. This is a perfect book for a book club! So many topics to discuss! Highly highly recommend!
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book and I thoroughly recommend it. Like Meyer's first book, The Murderer's Daughters (which I also loved), secrets and lies are at the heart of this story, which is told by three women (Tia, Caroline and Juliette) and one man, Nathan. Five years before the opening, Tia, a young college student, had an affair with Nathan, a charismatic professor who is married to Juliette. When Tia becomes pregnant, Nathan abruptly ends the affair, assuming that Tia will terminate the pregnancy -- which she does not. The novel braids the story of the three women: Tia, who still misses Nathan and worries that she made a mistake in giving away her baby, Caroline, the baby's adoptive mother, and Juliette, Nathan's wife, who learns about the existence of the little girl before Nathan does. I love the complexity of these women, and the ways they think about and navigate complex issues around parenting, love, work and family.
Beautifully Woven Plot. The story lines and lives of the three women are beautifully woven together through the secret that binds them together. The characters were believable and distinct. I found myself completely caught up in their lives. I look forward to reading other books by Randy Susan Meyers.
When I received a review copy of The Comfort of Lies, I was eager to dive in reading. The title alone piqued my interest. Aren't we all comfortable with lies? I was drawn in from the first page. The Comfort of Lies has an alternating point of view between three very different women all connected to a five-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. Five years ago, Tia was in love with an unavailable man. He broke ties when she became pregnant so she gave the baby up for adoption. Caroline felt pressured to please her husband and adopt a baby despite being a workaholic. Juliette thought she had a picture-perfect life with a loving husband, two sons and a thriving business...until she learned of Nathan's affair and intercepts a letter containing photos of his daughter. Upset and in search of the truth, Juliette's actions lead her to Caroline and Tia's door looking for answers. None of the characters are prepared for the consequences of lies told. Sharp writing. Emotional story. Complex characters. Layered drama that kept me flipping the pages. The Comfort of Lies was just published a few short weeks ago, making it a prime pick for a book club (discussion questions/readers guide included). You will not be disappointed if you purchase this novel; get snowed in with this good read from an award-nominated author Randy Susan Meyers. Watch the trailer below and read an excerpt here. Literary Marie of Precision Reviews