"Lies That Blind" (Minotaur Books), by Maggie Barbieri
Family relationships can be complicated, tangled up with love, loyalty and support in the best situations and, in the worst cases, hostility, resentment and revenge. While secrets can be part of a family's emotional fabric, how people react to these revelations says volumes about a person.
Maggie Barbieri takes a close look at family ties — good, bad and toxic — in "Lies That Bind," her second novel featuring Maeve Conlon. "Lies That Bind" is a strong story about a woman trying to uncover long-buried secrets about her family while maintaining a shroud around her own life. But the novel falls short of being as emotionally involving as "Once Upon a Lie," which introduced Maeve.
During a wake for her father, Maeve is stunned when a former neighbor, a nasty gossip, tells her that she has an older sister. Maeve was close to her father, and to think that he would keep something so important from her is unfathomable.
Maeve learns that she has a sister, Evelyn, who was born with development challenges and placed in an institution that was closed because of reports of abuse. She doesn't know if Evelyn is alive, and the only link she has is a support group for relatives of patients who were never found after the facility closed.
Meanwhile, Maeve is attacked in the bakery she owns shortly after finding evidence that someone has been breaking in at night.
The novel delivers a perceptive look at families, and it's easy to think of Maeve only in terms of that "nice lady," as a customer at her bakery calls her. But Maeve burns with a rage that erupts when she or someone she loves is threatened.
"Lies That Bind" is a good story, but it lacks the impact that infused Barbieri's first novel, and it doesn't do justice to the complicated Maeve.