Author: Kaela Coble
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Published: February 6th 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
To all my old friends: So here you all are. Nice to see you can show up for a person once he’s dead.
When Ruby St. James returns to her hometown, it is to the grave of her old friend Danny, a member of a group that was, ten years ago, Ruby’s whole world. The crew made a pact back then: stay together, stay loyal, and stay honest. But that was before all of the lies.
Because even friends keep secrets. They just don’t stay secret for long.
Now Danny has left behind a letter for each of them, issuing one final ultimatum: share your darkest betrayal to the group, or risk it coming out in a trap he has created. When past mistakes resurface, the lines of friendship blurb, and four old friends are left trying to understand what it means to lie to the ones you love best.
“All things done in the dark have a way of coming to the light”
‘The Crew,’ made up of Danny, Ruby, Murphy, Ally, and Emmett, have fallen out of touch over the years but are drawn back together for Danny’s funeral. Danny, who had taken the path of drug use to numb the pain brought on by the terrors in his life, commits suicide by overdose. He leaves behind a letter to his mother with a simple explanation for his actions and requests that she assemble ‘The Crew’ together to deliver one final message. Charlene does so by offering a letter Danny has written to the group collectively, as well as individual envelopes for each member containing the darkest secret they hide from one another.
This novel beyond its surface is deep; especially when it comes to relationships. The message was quite clear early on that people often take those in their lives for granted and this is unfortunately often missed until it’s too late. Flipping through the pages I felt constantly reminded that life isn’t perfect and what we show on the surface isn’t what always lies beneath.
The characterization and its growth were very impressive. I feel many readers would find themselves connecting to these characters. Especially since, like these characters, most of our childhoods and beyond weren’t picture perfect either. Each chapter alternates between multiple points of view, from past and present, primarily through the eyes of Ruby St. James. Throughout the novel these characters go to great lengths to keep the truth from being revealed.
On the topic of their secrets, Kaela does a pronominal job of keeping these secrets wrapped up, offering them little by little until the reader reaches the largest reveal in a emotional conclusion. I would not go into this expecting deep-seated, juicy, end of relationship type of secrets. While they aren’t cookie cutter, these secrets are not earth shattering either. Reflecting on it, I don’t believe it was ever Danny’s intention through his “game” to tear these relationships apart further, but to reunite them on a foundation of honesty and trust.
I was immersed in this story, fed into the drama, and could not pull myself away until I too knew what was hidden within each envelope. I did not want the story to end. I wanted to continue peering into the lives of these characters and the dynamics of their relationships. The latter half of this novel had me feeling SO many emotions.
I love novels by local writers and adore that Kaela is a true Vermonter. It shows in her use as the setting, in the humorous small factoids she offers (like mud season) and way she expresses how those inhabiting northern New England find maple syrup to be gold. Cause let’s be honest, real maple syrup IS gold! While I know this release was a long-awaited process for Kaela Coble, I see so much success in her future.
Happy Publication Day, Kaela! You are an author I’ll be keeping an eye out for and cannot wait to see what you come up with next.
“When it comes to things that really matter, you guys barely even know each other”
Many thanks to Kaela Coble and Sourcebook Landmark for inviting me to join this blog tour and an advanced reader’s copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Read an excerpt:
Look at them. I’m dead and they’re still pissing me off.
They’re disgusting. Sitting in their pew, huddled together like a pack of wolves. Each playing their part in mourning—the bereaved, the wilted, the guilty. They clutch at one another, leaning on each other physically and emotionally for support. Shaking heads, balled fists, crocodile tears. Asking why, how. Dabbing their swollen eyes with crumpled tissues. Declaring their loyalty and love for one another. For me.
Really, they hate each other, and they hate themselves, and they hate me for making them face their own mortality. And they love me because it fuels their sick sense of pride in their little clan. The crew, they call themselves, even though they haven’t been whole for a decade. “Still supporting each other after all these years,” they declare, even though they wouldn’t know true support if it helped them climb out of a grave.
There’s Ally, the great beauty of Chatwick, sitting tall and stoic, practically cradling a weeping, whimpering Steph in her arms. Ally’s expression as she comforts Steph says everything about her that you need to know. In this most horrifying moment, she is proud to be the crew’s leader, to be the default person in whom to find solace. But the tightness around her lips and the slight narrowing of her eyes shows a bit of the self-righteousness she feels. Steph is a girlfriend of the crew, not an original member. What right does she have to this display? Ally shoots glances at her perfect husband, Aaron. High school sweethearts; couldn’t you just puke? Talk about not being an original member… Aaron the dreamboat isn’t one either. He didn’t swoop in until our sophomore year of high school. And if you ask me, we would have been just fine without him.
Emmett and Aaron sit together instead of with their respective significant others, no doubt upon Emmett’s insistence. He has always orchestrated the seating arrangements to split between genders. He’s the youngest of three brothers, and therefore the noise, the gossip, and the full range of feminine feelings have always made him uncomfortable. The heightened emotional state caused by my death is no doubt more unbearable for him than my death itself. That he is allowing Ally to tend to his sobbing girlfriend, offering no comfort of his own, comes as no surprise.
He and Aaron mimic the same posture—leaned forward, their elbows resting on the thighs of their cheap woolen pants. They face the front of the church, careful not to make eye contact with each other, so they won’t have to utter one of the lame platitudes they’ve heard too many times over the past days. “He’s in a better place.” “He’s finally at peace.” And my personal favorite: “He’s with Roger now.”
While they should be focusing on the tragedy that is (was) my life, instead my casket is a big, fat, polished-cedar reminder that one day this will be them. They ponder all the predictable questions that even people of the mildest intellect contemplate when faced with untimely death: Where do we go when we die? What will they say about me when I’m gone? What does it all mean? Tomorrow they will look into low-premium life insurance plans to take care of their burgeoning families, should something happen to them. It will make them feel like men in control of their lives. But they’re not. They’re boys, and they’re not in control of shit.
Speaking of boys, Murphy isn’t here, the coward. He always picks the easiest option, and in this case (and many cases), that means hiding. I’m dead, lying here about to be carried off and buried, but all he cares about is winning the argument. Murphy showing up would mean I got the last word, or that he had forgiven me, and either of those would mean he’s weak. He doesn’t realize he’s the weakest one of the bunch anyway.
That brings me to Ruby. She sits in the pew between the girls and the boys, the space between her and them so slight you would only notice if you were looking for it, like I am. She watches Ally comforting Steph, occasionally reaching out a hand to squeeze one of Ally’s. I know Ruby feels genuine grief, but mostly discomfort. She doesn’t know her place anymore, her role. I’m only now realizing that she never really knew it. She’s been an official outsider ever since she dared leave Chatwick at eighteen, but even before that, she and I were always the ones straddling the curvature of the crew’s closed circle. One foot in, one foot out. The dark ones.
I know it’s terrible how much enjoyment I get from watching her squirm, but it’s just too entertaining. Besides, with the fate of my soul no longer a question mark, I’m enjoying what I can. My death will be hardest on Ruby, for sure, but she’ll never admit it, and our crew won’t acknowledge it. She left. She abandoned us, so she can’t possibly feel it as deeply as they do. It’s amazing how grief turns so quickly from a group activity to a competitive sport.
It seems all of Chatwick turned up in their patent-leather shoes and cheap polyester blends. “To show their support,” they’d say. For who? Me? Four days ago, they wouldn’t have pissed on me if I were on fire. Most of them are only here to satisfy their morbid curiosity, whispering behind hands and rolling eyes, gathering tidbits to relay later to their neighbors who were unable to make it. But some are here for my mother, Charlene, whose deli (formerly my stepfather’s) is where they happily spend their food stamps. Either way, I wish they wouldn’t have come. It makes them feel too damn good about themselves, and they don’t deserve it. And I don’t deserve the show either, even if it is fake.
Mom stares blankly ahead of her as the priest eulogizes yet another man who has let her down. I look—well, looked—just like her. If you shaved off her two curtains of waist-length blond curls and straightened out her chest and hips, we would look like twins.
Nancy, Ruby’s mother, sits next to Mom, holding her limp hand. Nancy is the one who made all these arrangements, and despite the overabundance of flowers, I still appreciate her efforts. She saved my mother from having to coordinate another funeral, and I think one is enough for a lifetime. Ruby’s never forgiven Nancy for the way she handled her own illness back in the day, but as dicey as things got in the St. James household, they didn’t hold a candle to my family. Besides, Nancy’s one of the only assholes in this town who has any compassion, and I’m grateful she’s decided to bestow it upon Mom when she needs it most.
That’s all I ever needed. Compassion. If I’d ever gotten a shred of it from any of the people in this room, maybe I wouldn’t be in this fucking box.
My “friends” all think they will finally be rid of me once they’ve fulfilled this obligation. They will go back to the “happy,” normal, vanilla lives they lead, and their guilt will subside eventually.
Dumbasses. They have no idea Mom found the letters this morning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kaela Coble is an author of women’s fiction, represented by Stephanie Kip Rostan of Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Her first novel, FRIENDS AND OTHER LIARS, will be published in February 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark. It is available as FRIENDS AND LIARS in the U.K., published by Altantic Corvus.
She is also passionate about helping people to develop professionally, whether that be as a writer or in any other career. This enthusiasm for career development led her to launch a coaching business in 2016. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer through the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches.
Kaela earned her B.S. in Communications and completed a short stint as a copywriter before becoming disillusioned with the marketing of cloud solutions and “sustainable” chemicals, switching to assistant work to free up creative energy for her true passions. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association as well as the League of Vermont Writers, and is a graduate of the Womentoring Project. She is also a voracious reader, and hopeless addict to bad television and good chocolate. She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.
As a part of this Blog Tour spot, Sourcebooks is giving away a finished copy of Friends and Other Liars to one lucky book lover! To enter, head over to my Twitter page!
Debut Novel Explores Secrets Among Friends…and Other Liars
Sometimes the secrets we keep are more dangerous than the ones we reveal…
Friends and Other Liars: A Novel
ISBN: 9781492651161; FEBRUARY 2018
$15.99 U.S.; Trade Paper; Fiction/Mystery