In Little Red Lies, Governor General’s Award winning author, Julie Johnston, brings us another memorable sister and brother in a new work of historical fiction.
When Rachel’s brother, Jamie, returns from World War II, Rachel thinks that finally life will go back to normal. But Jamie isn’t the same. He has seen death and his best buddy is missing in action. To Jamie “normal” feels like a lie. Rachel struggles with normal too, as she navigates the ups and downs of growing up in a family that is falling apart. When Jamie becomes ill, her mother announces a surprise pregnancy and Rachel messes up the school play, everyone begins to look inward and their fragile connections are stretched to the breaking point. Rachel feels so alone that she turns to her charismatic drama teacher for support—but he isn’t what he seems.
Little Red Lies is not just the colour of Rachel’s so-sophisticated lipstick, but a book about the lies she tells as she tries to define herself. Readers will relate as she wavers between being “pathetic” or “magnificent” in her determination to conquer childhood. Rachel’s character is deliberately uneven; at times selfish and immature and at others thoughtful and insightful. Jamie balances the story by adding his point of view through a series of letters. Johnston’s plotting is masterful, weaving a number of issues into multiple story lines that miss, collide, batter, and ultimately connect. By design, not all of the threads are tied up neatly at the end, which allows the subtle poignancy of Johnston’s ending to resonate long after the book is closed.