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Gorgeous Lies

Gorgeous Lies by Martha McPhee
5 reviews (2002) (336p)
National Book Award Finalist

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Book Description
Acclaimed by critics, Martha McPhee's debut Bright Angel Time established her as a dazzling new talent in American fiction; she fulfills her promise and breaks ambitious new ground with Gorgeous Lies. Charismatic therapist Anton Furey is dying, and the tribe he heads-his five children, his wife's three, and their uniting child, Alice-has returned to Chardin, the farm where they grew up and played out Anton's vision of communal living. They had been famous for being the new American blended family, their utopian lifestyle chronicled by film crews and reporters. But as Anton grows weaker, the hurts and betrayals of those years boil to the surface, and the children find themselves reliving the knotty intimacies they share as they struggle to make their peace with Anton. With shimmering prose and an acutely observant eye, McPhee has created a portrait of an era and a family that explores the limits, and obligations, of love. Review
Let's face it, sequels can be confusing. Especially sequels that are meant to be standalone literary experiences. Martha McPhee's Gorgeous Lies explores the fictional world established in her well-received first novel, Bright Angel Time. In the 1970s, therapist and would-be revolutionary Anton Furey becomes the paterfamilias of two families. He brings them to live together under one roof, where they become a kind of hippie Brady Bunch.

They were famous for many reasons. They were famous because they lived on a vast piece of property. They were famous because Anton was a Gestalt therapist and in town he had a reputation for holding therapy sessions on his front lawn. They were famous because there were so many of them. They were famous with all the shopkeepers and merchants in town for making late payments on their bills, but even so they still got credit, because they were famous.

The book toggles between that chaotic time and the present, when Anton Furey lies dying of cancer and his family is scattered to the four winds. Gorgeous Lies reveals, never quite completely, what happened in the intervening years. The writing here is careful and funny and evasive, at times almost mystical. But McPhee's elliptical style isn't well suited to a standalone sequel. Too often we're left wondering if she means to leave some mystery open-ended, or if it was just something we missed in the first novel. Fans of Bright Angel Time will welcome the return to utopia. The rest of us are charmed, but a bit befuddled. --Claire Dederer

Martha McPhee Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 1 Gorgeous Lies ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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