Book Review: Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

“A unique and beautifully written novel that explores the ethics and consequences of lying.”

Nofar is just an ordinary teenage girl – so ordinary that she’s almost invisible. Serving customers in an ice cream parlour all summer long, she is desperate for some kind of escape. One day, faded celebrity Avishai Milner walks in and after a moment of anger and misunderstanding, he suddenly finds himself accused of sexually assaulting her. Now everyone wants to talk to Nofar: the press, her schoolmates, and the boy upstairs, the only person who knows the truth besides Nofar. Then Nofar meets Raymonde, an elderly woman whose best friend has just died. Raymonde keeps her friend alive through the only way she knows how – by inhabiting her stories. But soon, Raymonde’s lies take a life of their own. Is it ever really ok to lie? And will the truth surrounding Nofar and Avishai Milner ever come to light?

This novel is unique in that it explores the consequences of lying. Now, that may not sound like the most intriguing or exciting premise, but believe me, Liar is a book you will want to keep on reading once you start it. Gundar-Goshen examines the moral and emotional repercussions of lying, and draws you deeper into the narrative as much as Nofar digs herself deeper into her twist of the truth. You begin to question whether there are any circumstances in which lying is acceptable, and you imagine how you would negotiate the situations that both Nofar and Raymonde find themselves in.

Nofar is such a heart-warming protagonist, and the way she makes you respond to her as a reader is very complicated. On the one hand, you know that what she does is totally wrong, and her secret knowledge of the truth makes you feel complicit in her actions because you are following her story. On the other hand, you understand why she said what she said, and you are sympathetic towards her. I could not help but put myself in Nofar’s position and I was asking myself while reading what I would do if I was her.

My sympathy for Nofar was helped a great deal by Avishai Milner. He’s a rude and obnoxious ex-superstar song writer who feels that his former fame somehow makes him entitled to treat others like dirt. However, you know the truth of the case concerning him and Nofar, and once again, your sympathies are torn. Being aware of the misunderstanding that resulted in Milner being accused of sexual assault puts you in a very difficult place, as you try to situate your sense of justice on a scale of leniency and severity.

Nofar’s boyfriend, Lavi is a sweet and amusing character. It’s absolutely uplifting how he will do anything for Nofar simply because he loves her, and I loved him all the more because he is unconventional. He was not the really attractive and popular boy in school, but rather the shy one that nobody notices. It is his personality and character that makes him such a good person towards Nofar.

Nofar’s sister, Maya is another character who is instrumental in manipulating your sympathies. She is so conflicted in what she should do with the knowledge she has, and that’s where the moral consciousness of Gundar-Goshen’s characters is really thought-provoking. It is so easy to immerse yourself into Maya’s situation and imagine what you would do if you were in her shoes: do you put the truth or your family first for the sake of what is right? Although Raymonde appears for a shorter time in the narrative than Nofar, her role is nevertheless crucial in helping Nofar (and the reader) consider the implications of lying, and reassess what “the right thing” is.

Overall, Liar is a unique and beautifully written novel that explores the ethics and consequences of lying. With characters that move you in so many different ways, Gundar-Goshen’s novel is a compelling one that you will not be able to put down.

Rating: 5/5

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