It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she’s built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.
She’s dreading the funeral – and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addresses to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby’s secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything……..
Friends and Liars is a very accomplished first novel from Kaela Coble. The plot mainly centres around Ruby coming back to Chatwick after a ten year self imposed absence. She has to deal with the fall out after Danny’s death and also reconnecting with ‘the crew’, her group of childhood friends who she completely cut off without giving a reason. We see Ruby and her friends negotiate their way after Danny’s death and how they handle the idea that their darkest secrets maybe revealed. The narrative also goes back to their teenage years where we are I’ve an insight into their lives and we learn the reason Ruby walked away and never came back.
The characters have a real sense of verisimilitude; they could be any group of friends, maybe a group that you know, Danny is the fun one but uses fun to cover problems at home; Emmett is the serious and sensible one, Ally the organiser and mother figure, Murphy, the sporty one and Ruby who dreams of moving away to escape her alcoholic mother. Kaela Cobie gives a detailed account of their back history which adds to our understanding of where they are now in their lives; the awkwardness of the teenage years still present in their adult lives, insecurities and grudges are still apparent between them. I thought the interaction between the characters was well written and in parts gave a touch of humour. At the centre is the relationship between Ruby and Murphy, best friends and lovers since teenage years. Old flames are relit as are old resentments, they have that relationship where you can’t be together but also struggle apart. The friends relationship is both heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time.
To give the narrative a sense of balance there are also chapters by Ally, Ruby’s best female friend and Steph, girlfriend of ‘crew’ member Emmett. Steph, gives an unbiased view as she wasn’t part of the group when they were younger; she has the advantage of seeing all this from the outside.
The plot deals with some very difficult and dark themes; abuse, drugs, abortion and suicide. All are dealt with empathy and understanding, no glamourising or exaggeration. They are simply problems that face many people and Kaela Corble deals with the consequences that effect both the person who us involved and those around them.
The suspense about the secrets is kept throughout the book, we are drip fed clues throughout, and we only know that each secret is damaging enough that neither wants the others to know. This leads to what I see as the main theme; we all keep a part of ourselves secret from those we love even if we pretend to have no secrets from them. It also shows that no-one is perfect, everyone has secrets that we done want others to know and most of all that we can’t make judgements of others as we don’t always know their circumstances. Forgiveness and understanding are also important, as the friends finally come to terms with the past and the present.
Friends and Liars is an engaging read, full of suspense, humour and emotion that you will want to read in one sitting. Beautifully written with amazing characters, this is a brilliant first novel.