A woman wants to make peace with her past. As a child, she watched her friend fall down a well, and then, for some inexplicable reason, told the police her friend had disappeared into a stranger’s car. For years, she has wondered why she told this lie, and what she can do to atone for her sin. Visiting with witnesses, she learns that her memory is inaccurate; her friend did, in fact, get into a stranger’s car. Why has she remembered the event incorrectly? What kind of child was she, and why should she worry about the past?
The False Friend is a delight. With the pace of a thriller, Myla Goldberg gives us a complex problem and an authentic, surprising resolution. Vivid characterizations fill her pages: a girl who subjects herself to fashion ratings from her peers; a man who smokes pot furtively in his in-laws’ yard. Goldberg has a talent for noticing the physical world; in one gorgeous chapter, she concisely narrates the history of an American city’s deterioration. She also knows how to use a simile. A tense hostess blows a small puff of air at her guest, as if extinguishing a candle.
Fans of Goldberg’s first novel, Bee Season, will love The False Friend. In both novels, Goldberg beautifully narrates the collapse of a family. She is interested in what we sacrifice when we change; whom we hurt, and why; what separates children from adults; and how memories help us to survive. She writes about these heavy questions while creating a brisk, unforgettable story. The False Friend leaves us wanting more, as all good fiction should.