A People 10 Best Books of the Year - A New York Times Notable Book of the Year - An Independent (UK) 20 Best Books of the Year "Wise, bracingly honest...A reassuring reality check...Exhilarating." --New York Times Book ReviewA heartbreaking, soul-baring novel about the repercussions of choice that "will strike a resonant chord with parents everywhere," (starred Kirkus) from the award-winning author of The Welsh Girl and The Fortunes
A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself traces the complex consequences of one of the most personal yet public, intimate yet political experiences a family can have: to have a child, and conversely, the decision not to have a child. A first pregnancy is interrupted by test results at once catastrophic and uncertain. A second pregnancy ends in a fraught birth, a beloved child, the purgatory of further tests--and questions that reverberate down the years. When does sorrow turn to shame?
When does love become labor?
When does chance become choice?
When does a diagnosis become destiny?
And when does fact become fiction? This spare, graceful narrative chronicles the flux of parenthood, marriage, and the day-to-day practice of loving someone. As challenging as it is vulnerable, as furious as it is tender, as touching as it is darkly comic, Peter Ho Davies's new novel is an unprecedented depiction of fatherhood. "There are some stories that require as much courage to write as they do art. Peter Ho Davies's achingly honest, searingly comic portrait of fatherhood is just such a story...The world needs more stories like this one, more of this kind of courage, more of this kind of love." --Sigrid Nunez, National Book Award-winning author of The Friend"There is nothing superfluous in these pages...A novel that...earns its place on the shelf alongside the frank and sometimes acerbic memoirs of Rachel Cusk and Anne Enright." --Claire Messud, Harper's
- ISBN-13: 9780544277717
- ISBN-10: 0544277716
- Publisher: Mariner Books
- Publish Date: January 2021
- Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.57 pounds
- Page Count: 240
A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself
As challenges go, fatherhood can be beautiful and rewarding. The health of one’s child, however, may complicate matters. A couple forced to confront some of these challenges is at the center of Peter Ho Davies’ excellent third novel, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself.
The book is told from the perspective of a man who is now a writer but used to be a scientist. At the outset, in wrenchingly spare prose, a doctor gives the man and his editor wife, expecting their first child, a grim prognosis: The fetus had mosaicism, a rare condition that offers only “a tiny chance. BB-sized” that the baby will be born in normal health. The couple decides to abort.
The next pregnancy produces a seemingly healthy boy, until he turns blue on the delivery table and has to spend four days in the neonatal intensive care unit. Davies infuses these scenes with heartbreaking detail, as when the father sits by the incubator, talking to his son, saying, “Little guy, it’s Daddy,” while an IV drips into a tiny arm.
After the boy recovers, Davies brilliantly describes the quotidian aspects of raising a baby that leave the couple “floaty with exhaustion,” from shopping for baby monitors to, in one of many invocations of Schrödinger’s cat, wondering whether the quiet of the baby’s room means their child is sleeping or dead.
When a kindergarten teacher suggests the boy may be autistic, the couple resists having him tested for fear of what they might learn. This leads to more soul-searching on the part of the father, even prompting him to volunteer at an abortion clinic to help him sort through lingering feelings about the couple’s earlier decision.
Though the child comes across as an abstraction rather than a fully fleshed-out character, the eloquence of Davies’ writing will make readers sympathize with a father trying to be a good parent and a good person and wondering if he’s succeeding. A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself is a poetic meditation on the nature of regret and a couple’s enduring love through myriad difficulties. It’s a difficult but marvelous book.