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Telling My Love Lies

by Keath Fraser

Telling My Love Lies, Vancouver writer Keath Fraser’s follow-up to his award-winning first novel, Popular Anatomy (1995), begins with a tidy conceit: the members of a reading club gone stale try to breathe new life into their literary relationship by trying their hand at writing. The result is a series of 10 short stories, each ostensibly written by a different author, loosely centered around the quiet farming community of Perumber, British Columbia.

Fraser’s controlled and confident writing gives us a rich sense of the longing of his fully drawn characters. In one story, a young woman employs a wash of white light to combat the wintry gloom that has settled permanently over her parents’ lives; in another, a cancer-ridden man fishes for sturgeon at midnight while talking to his sister on a cellular phone. Fraser stumbles briefly with “Sikh,” an overwritten, self- involved monologue dictated to an absent lover by a disillusioned Indian politician, but the novella that closes the book is wonderfully mournful, as a fragmenting family struggles under the weight of countless deceptions, piled higher than the used tires that dominate what remains of their dairy farm.

Deception is a theme that runs through this book. As the various characters struggle to cope with lost loves and failed dreams, their memories become dynamic entities shaped by the dimly remembered facts, exaggerations, and outright lies they tell themselves and one another. We are all habitual storytellers, but as Oscar Wilde points out in the book’s epigraph, only lying in art is beyond reproach. Telling My True Love Lies is a remarkable, bittersweet celebration of that fact.