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Lies You Wanted to Hear

Lies You Wanted to Hear

by James Whitfield Thomson

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An intense debut novel that's "compulsively readable and stunningly written," (Jodi Picoult),  Lies You Wanted to Hear is hard-hitting story about a family torn apart from the inside out, and what happens when the mistakes you make cost more than anyone would expect.

Alone in an empty house, Lucy tries to imagine the lives of her two young children. They have been gone for seven years, and she is tormented by the role she played in that heartbreaking loss. You can hardly see a glimpse of the sexy, edgy woman she used to be. Back then, she was a magnet for men like Matt, who loved her beyond reason, and Griffin, who wouldn't let go but always left her wanting more. Now the lies they told and the choices they made have come to haunt all three of them.

With shattering turns, Lies You Wanted to Hear explores the way good people talk themselves into doing terrible, unthinkable things. What happens when we come to believe our own lies? And what price must we pay for our mistakes?

A searing story that will leave you wondering what choices you would make, Lies You Wanted to Hear is a stunning debut.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402284298
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 238,822
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

James Whitfield Thomson is a former sales executive and U.S. Navy navigator in Vietnam. Along with Elizabeth Berg, George Packer, Christopher Tilghman, and Dennis Lehane, he was an early member of the late Andre Dubus's writers' workshop. He lives in Natick, Massachusetts. This is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt


New York City-January 1990

"I hate flying," the woman in the seat next to Lucy says.

"Me too," Lucy agrees, though it isn't true. She never worries about her plane crashing, not with all the human failings that tear lives apart.

As the plane starts down the runway, the woman whimpers and crosses herself, and Lucy reaches out and takes her hand. When they are safely aloft, the pilot making a slow, gentle turn northward, Lucy lets go.

"Thank you," the woman says. "I'm going to visit my daughter in New Hampshire and missed my connection. I didn't want to fly in this weather, but..." She shudders and gives herself a hug.

Lucy nods but doesn't respond. She is on her way home after three days at the midwinter conference of the American Library Association. She'd been hoping to catch the five o'clock shuttle to Boston but got stuck in traffic and ended up on the six; then the plane sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour waiting to take off and had to go back to the gate for deicing. If she's lucky, she'll be on the ground by eight.

The woman takes a sky blue ball of yarn from a canvas bag and goes to work, her knitting needles pecking like a pair of hungry birds. She's about fifty, wearing a purple sweat suit and matching reading glasses.

"I'm going as fast as I can," she says as she notices Lucy watching her. "But I don't think I'll finish it on time."

"What are you knitting?"

"A sweater for my new grandson. My fourth. No girls yet."

"Come on, you're not old enough to have grandkids."

"I got started early." The woman rolls her eyes. "Way too early. What about you? Do you have children?"

"Two," Lucy says. "A boy and a girl. Today's my son's birthday."

"Wonderful. How old?"


"Oh, that's a great age. Same as my grandson Conor." She wants to tell Lucy all about him and the other boys-long stories about their antics, one already a junior hockey star-and Lucy is grateful there are no more questions about herself.

When they land, the woman thanks Lucy for listening. Then she looks at her watch and says, "At least you'll be home in time to see your son blow out the candles."

Lucy smiles, trying to imagine what a joy that would be.


The taxi driver lets Lucy out at Le Lapin Vert, a little bistro on Centre Street a few blocks from her house in Jamaica Plain. She sits in the back with her suitcase under the table and orders escargots and a glass of chardonnay. There's a map of France printed on the paper place mats. In the summer she likes to rent a car and explore the French countryside. She keeps to the back roads, no plans or reservations. The taste of the escargots brings back memories of a restaurant in Venasque, a late dinner where she was the only patron, the chef joining her afterward for a cigarette and a glass of wine. Lucy studies the map on the place mat and conjures up images from her travels: the wild horses of the Carmargue, the cave paintings at Les Eyzies, the brightly colored anchovy boats at Collioure. She'd like to buy a cottage in St. Benoit someday and plant a small vegetable garden, go to the abbey every evening and listen to the monks chant vespers in the ancient crypt.

A handsome man in an Irish fisherman sweater smiles at her on his way to the men's room, as if they share a secret past. Lucy puts some money on the table and leaves without waiting for the check.

When she gets home, Frodo and Sam are asleep on the couch. Frodo yawns and tries to shake himself awake while Sam curls up against the light.

"Some watchdog you are," Lucy says as Frodo comes over and wags his tail. He looks like a cross between a boxer and a corgi: reddish-brown coat, short legs and a blunt snout, one bent ear, a tail that sticks straight up. When a man at the dog park asked what breed he was, Lucy laughed and said, Albanian goatherd.

Frodo goes to the back door, and Lucy lets him out into the yard. She takes off her heels and puts on a pair of slippers, checks the thermostat and turns up the heat. Sam comes into the kitchen and meows, and Lucy puts some fresh kibble in his bowl. The messages on the answering machine are from her mother and Jill and Carla-one melancholy, one anxious, one offhand-each in her own way acknowledging what day it is, but none of them willing to come out and say it. The mail is nothing but solicitations and bills. Lucy pours a glass of wine, then goes to the study and sits at her desk, its walnut surface scarred with nicks and glass rings and one long burn from a cigarette ash that could have set the whole house on fire. In the lower left-hand drawer, there's a stack of leather-bound journals.

She takes out the one on top and opens it to the place marked by the thin red ribbon attached to the binding. For several years she wrote almost every day; now weeks go by without a word, her anger and sorrow shriveled to a hard kernel stuck permanently in the back of her throat. She smooths the journal open with the heel of her hand and does the math quickly on a slip of scrap paper, feeling guilty that she cannot recall the numbers instantly and recite them down to the minute. She writes with a fountain pen; there is something comforting in the permanence of the blue-black ink soaking into the page.

1-25-90 (6 years, 7 months & 15 days gone) Happy birthday, Nathan. Nine years old today! That is so hard to believe. I can almost see you laughing, a shock of dark brown hair falling across your forehead, your grown-up teeth still too big for your face. Did you have a party after school today or will you have to wait till the weekend? An afternoon of sledding on a snowy hillside (no girls allowed), hot chocolate and cake afterward, wet socks and gloves drying by the fire? Or will it be a picnic on a sunny beach, you and your pals playing Wiffle ball and riding your boogie boards in the surf? Is there a special present you're hoping to get? A Game Boy? Baseball mitt? One of those flashy dirt bikes with a banana seat? I remember the day I turned nine. My grandmother took me to the Plaza for tea. I wanted to live there like Eloise and play tricks on the staff. Do you remember Eloise? That was Sarah's favorite book. Yours was Goodnight Moon. You were only two, but you knew every word by heart. You liked to snuggle up close to me at bedtime and pretend you were reading. That was always my favorite part of the day.

Sam jumps up on the desk and nuzzles Lucy's hand. She looks at her watch. 9:53. She goes to the kitchen and refills her wineglass, doesn't bother to turn off the light in the study before she heads upstairs. On the bookshelf in the hall, she finds Eloise and Goodnight Moon. The copper washtub on the hearth in her bedroom is empty, no kindling or wood for a fire.

Lucy crawls under the covers in her clothes while Sam nestles beside her, purring and kneading. She opens a book and reads aloud. "In the great green room there was a telephone..." As the bunny is saying good night to the socks, Lucy hears Frodo barking in the yard. She groans and pulls the cocoon of blankets up around her neck.


The cat cocks his ears and blinks at Lucy.

"Can you go down and let him in?" She scratches Sam under the chin. "Please, baby, go down and get him. I'm all tapped out tonight."

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