Real Life & Liars by Kristina Riggle - Book Review

Real Life & Liars by Kristina Riggle begins with that famous Tolstoy observation on happy versus unhappy families and offers up the Zielinski family as an example. Mirabelle, the Zielinski matriarch, hides a secret threatening to spill onto the 35th anniversary party her children have planned for her. Her oldest daughter, Kat, has planned the festivity to precision, a mirror of Kat’s yuppie-perfect life. Youngest daughter, Irina, is in the middle of an existential crisis as her hard-living youthful days are coming to an abrupt end. And Ivan, the only son, lumbers to find a way out of his self-sabotaging behavior. Old friends will pop in and out of the tale and the patriarch of the Zielinski clan will march his background noise around the rest of these dynamic characters.

Taking place over the spam of a long weekend, Real Life & Liars unfolds through alternating viewpoint chapters of Mirabelle and her three children. I was a bit disappointed that the father, a writer, didn’t get a voice and wondered why Riggle had delegated him to such a lowly position. However, the four protagonists do a fine job painting a distinct family facing the toughest of life’s scenarios. The characters reveal that wonderful mix of comfort and pull-your-hair-out emotions one can only share as part of a family. The northern Michigan setting adds a sweeping feel to the building drama, strengthened further by a looming tornado. With this good mix of characters, setting and drama, Riggle has all the pieces in place for an enjoyable read.

My copy of Real Life & Liars included a reading group guide, but it missed the most pressing question: Are the Zielinski’s unhappy or are they just normal? And that, to me, was a central theme sent in motion by Riggle and her Anna Karenina epigraph.

Real Life & Liars drops in June, just in time for a good beach read or book club addition.

Extra Info:
*Read from an advanced copy. Available June 2009.

*For more info, you can visit the author's website: HERE

*A big Thank You to Harper Collins for allowing me to preview Real Life & Liars.

*Also posted on Library Thing

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