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The Lie by Chad Kultgen

By Mike R. (Dr. Controversy) | Books | August 5, 2009 |

By Mike R. (Dr. Controversy) | Books | August 5, 2009 |

With only two books under his belt, Chad Kultgen has proven that he is Bret Easton Ellis’ smirking revenge. I read his debut novel, The Average American Male, not too long ago; and it had completely impressed me. However, when compared to The Lie, it seems like more of a creative writing exercise to warm himself up to write this book. It’s as if the protagonist from his previous novel was the inspiration for one third of the vicious triangle that plays itself out. And make no mistake, this isn’t a love triangle … it’s more like a revenge triangle.

The Lie is the story of three former college students: Kyle (the nice guy), Heather (the sorority slut), and Brett (the rich misogynist). Through these three viewpoints, one large story plays out through their four years at SMU. The story of a collection of experiences that end up changing all of their lives, and in some way shape or form ruining them. We know this from the outset, and as the story proceeds we’re constantly reminded that something big is about to happen. At certain points, each one of them seems to hold onto some sort of redeemable qualities, but the closer these events get to critical mass, the darker and more sinister the deeds of our protagonists get. By the final page, what started as an uneasy truce has become a massively fractured and damaged battleground of hearts and minds. No one leaves clean, everyone has done something unforgivable, and everyone has lied.

Kultgen’s writing is so easy and fast to read because of the confessional style he uses. Only this time, we have three people’s perspectives It’s as if you’re listening to someone tell you a story instead of just reading straight prose. It helps fully envision the events when you hear someone recounting them, instead of some omniscient narrator recounting them. It isn’t being laid out by someone who isn’t there, isn’t experiencing it … it’s all brought to light by the three people who were architects in their own demises. That’s the scariest part of the book: it’s real people narrating their lives. There is no separation between the audience and the characters, and that lack of distance puts us in a position to observe these events a little closer than we’d like to.

Though the book is named The Lie, it is not just one lie that sends everything into a tailspin, but a series of lies. Hurtful lies. White lies. Lies of omission and slander. In the end, the scariest thing about the events in this book is that it’s hard to pick one lie that’s the most devastating or the most unjustified. It swims in the moral gray area, until it nosedives into deep blackness towards its end. If I had a book club, this would be an official selection. If you enjoy dark comedy and even darker drama, pick this book up. (I would even recommend it as the perfect bookend to I Love You, Beth Cooper.)

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details about here and the growing number of participants and their blogs, from which these reviews are pulled, are here. And check here for more of Mike R.’s reviews.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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