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If I Lie Hardcover – August 28, 2012
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
“Carey Breen is MIA.”
His tongue weighs each word to cause the most pain.
My father’s news drops like a bomb, blasting the air from my lungs, and everything in me shrieks, Not Carey.
My dresser bites into my backbone. I deflate, clamping my fingers around the Nikon to hide how they tremble. I want to throw up, but my father blocks escape to the bathroom, his shoulders spanning the doorway. Late February morning sun slips through the window blinds and swaths his perma-sunburned face in blades of light and dark. Shadow camouflage.
My stomach twists and sweat slides down my sides. He doesn’t care what this news does to me. How it destroys me. His chin’s up. Wintergreen eyes narrowed under sparse blond eyebrows. Hairline retreating from the neat rows of lines crossing his forehead. I’m barely holding it together, and he doesn’t bother to hide his disappointment at my reaction to his words.
His lips thin. “Quinn, did you hear me?”
Yes, sir. Carey is MIA. Sir.
Since the scandal six months ago—that scandal we don’t speak of—my father says Carey’s name with reverence. They are two Marines, two men who’ve fought for a freedom I no longer feel. Comrades betrayed by the women they left behind.
Sand and grit have rubbed between the pleasantries in Carey’s e-mails since I stopped answering him weeks ago. We’re leaving Camp Leatherneck soon—pleasedon’ttell—we’ll be patrolling roads, clearing IEDs, something big’s coming—imissyou—you may not hear from me for a while—Godidon’twanttodie—you must be busy with school and all—talktomeQuinn—I hope to hear from you soon.
Carey could be a hostage. He could be dead, his brown body abandoned and decaying in a foreign country. The town has watched the CNN reports on Operation Moshtarak for the last week, tracking Carey’s battalion, the 1/6, as waves of Chinooks dropped troops into Marjah. Rockets, machine-gun fire, mortars, and IEDs met them. I’ve held my breath for days, trying to pick Carey out in the news footage. What if . . .
His parents must be destroyed. They know by now, if my father knows. How did they react? The Marines would have sent at least one soldier to the Breens’ house, and I imagine how Mr. Breen looked hearing the news. Evaluating. Slow and methodical, his eyes focused on the ceiling to hide his thoughts. When composed, he would catch his wife’s worried gaze, and Mrs. Breen would KNOW. As if she waited—expected—the worst to happen. Her body would fold, welcoming sadness, drowning in it, and Mr. Breen would support her, catching her before she hit the ground. If she blamed me before, it will now be a thousand times worse. I can’t even grieve for Carey—not where people can see me.
Carey has sewed my mouth shut.
Nice girls don’t cheat on their hero boyfriends. Damn you, Carey.
“Quinn?” My father sounds impatient.
My rage blows away, leaving hopelessness in its place. “I heard you, sir.”
“You’re not to leave the house unless it’s to go to school or to work. People are going to be in a lot of pain when they find out. I don’t want your presence making them feel worse. You’ve done enough, you hear me?”
I nod. He’s right. Nobody will want to see me. Today, I will not go to Grave Woods. I set the Nikon on the dresser behind me, among the neat pile of lenses and memory cards. My hands feel useless without my camera. Void.
My father assumes I’ll obey. His uniform has starched his backbone so straight he walks tall even in faded jeans and a worn Marine THE FEW. THE PROUD. sweatshirt. Lieutenant Colonel Cole Quinn’s orders—like the Ten Commandments—are disobeyed at your own peril.
His eyes narrow to two dashes and sweep my room. They land on the bed with its sheets and blanket tucked military-style, as he taught me. The dresser with its clean top. The desk with the books lined up by size and subject. Nothing out of place. No thing to criticize except me. I cannot remember the last time his eyes stayed on mine. After I was branded the “town slut,” he looks through me.
Maybe if we both wish hard enough, I will become invisible, with watery veins and glass bones. My translucent heart will beat on, but my father will not notice.
He sees only my mother in the spaces around me.
* * *
He leaves my bedroom door wide open. Moments later, my father’s study door shuts with a snick. In his sanctuary, the bookshelves lining one wall tell the history of war from A (American Revolution) to Z (the Zulu Civil War). There are biographies of generals, World War II memoirs, and academic tomes about US military strategy during Vietnam. My father studies war as a hobby like other men hunt Bambi or rebuild classic engines.
A mahogany desk faces the Wall of War, and there are no chairs in the room other than my father’s. I wonder if he has done this on purpose.
Holed up in his office, my father will not reappear until chow time at 1800 hours. Alone, I lie on my bed, pull the plain sky-blue bedspread over my head, and cry inside my tent.
The phone rings from the hallway—Dad took my phone out of my room six months ago—and I pull myself together to answer it. Barefoot, I pad across the wood floor and into the hallway to the small antique sewing table that my mother restored a million years ago. It has the phone she put there. It’s the old rotary kind, where you slip your finger into the holes and spin the dial for each number. Mess up and you have to start the process all over again.
The door to my father’s office cracks open—his way of letting me know that he is listening.
A sigh that’s really more of a grunt comes in response. I know the voice, but he rarely speaks to me.
“Hey, Nikki,” I lie. I lean against the wall and wind the spiral phone cord around my finger as if I’m settling in to talk to my old friend. My father’s footsteps recede as he falls back to his desk. I grip the phone tighter.
“Talk to me, Blake,” I beg in a whisper. “I know it’s you.” We hadn’t always liked each other, but we’d had Carey in common. Me, his girlfriend; and Blake Kelly, his best friend who was more like a brother. We’d always kept the peace because Carey demanded that kind of loyalty. Despite everything that happened, that shouldn’t have changed.
“You heard, didn’t you? Are you with his parents?” It made sense. The Breens have turned to Blake for comfort since Carey received his orders. I’m guessing he’s calling to tell me about Carey so I’m not blindsided at school Monday.
“Do they blame me?” I don’t want to know, but the question scrapes out of me. Do you blame me?
“It’s not my fault,” I whisper, but Blake’s gone.
* * *
There are some things nice girls don’t do in a town like Sweet-haven, North Carolina. Six years ago, before my mother walked out on us with my father’s brother, she told me, “First chance you get, girl, run like hell. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t end up a soldier’s wife.” A smudge of bitterness clung to the smoke from her Virginia Slims Menthol. Her Avon’s “Light My Fire” red lips pursed around the filter one last time before she crushed the stained cigarette butt into the glass ashtray she hid whenever my father came home on leave. Short black curls spiraled in defiant abandon when she shook her head. “I wish I’d never seen An Officer and a Gentleman. Damn Richard Gere and his dress whites.”
At eleven, I had no idea what my mother meant, but I understood one thing: My mother wouldn’t pretend to be a nice girl forever.
With her tanned skin and snow-white sundress, my mother reminded me of actresses in the old movies she liked to watch. I had told her so, and she had caressed my cheek, the warmth of her fingers lingering for hours after. I loved my mom best when my father was gone. When his battalion deployed their fighting would cease, and the temperature in our house increased by ten degrees.
The summer I turned eleven, though, she dumped me at my grandmother’s, dropped a kiss on my forehead, and told me to “be a good girl.” She waved good-bye from the passenger seat of Uncle Eddy’s Buick. It wasn’t until my father returned a month later that I realized she wasn’t coming back. And I could only blame myself.
After all, I’d told him the one thing sure to tear our family apart. I’d told my father that Uncle Eddy had slept in my mother’s bed.
Located just west of Camp Lejeune, Sweethaven had a good number of sons (and some daughters) who’d enlisted straight out of high school. Many families could claim a Devil Dog in every generation, and all could agree: Cheating spouses were the scum of the earth.
My father returned from Iraq, and I trailed him unnoticed through our house. Tight-lipped and dry-eyed, he studied his uniforms, marching in solitary formation in the empty closet. My mother had committed one last sacrilegious act before escaping. His once pristine blue dress uniforms sported gaping holes from her best sewing shears.
My father’s hand shook when he touched a brass button clinging to a jacket lapel by a single thread. I understood then the golden rule my mother had broken. You didn’t disrespect the uniform. Ever. Not in a family that could trace five generations of soldiers who had served their country. Not in a town that could claim its forefathers had thumbed their noses at the British during the American Revolution and had lost sons to each war since.
My mother’s name was not mentioned in our house after that day. And I—lovingly named Sophie Topper Quinn after my mother and my father’s half-brother, Captain Edward Topper—became Quinn at my father’s insistence. Quinn, the girl who would be better than her mother.
My father’s epic ability to freeze people out had begun with my mother. Not that she’d ever tried to come back or see us again, but he’d managed to erase her from everything except my memories. He stripped her belongings from our house, barring the few things I hid in the attic. Their wedding photos disappeared one day while I was at school, along with every other photo of her.
Later, I wondered if I really remembered her the way she looked, or if she had become a screwed-up Debra Winger/Elizabeth Taylor collage. Other times, I caught my father watching me with cold, dead eyes, and I prayed he was remembering her, that my resemblance to her made him think of her.
Because I didn’t want to believe my father hated me that much.
Especially when all of Sweethaven thought I’d become her too: the town slut cheating on her Marine.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
If I Lie is about the amazing protagonist, Sophie Topper Quinn, who now goes by Q because her father doesn't want her name to have any association to her mother who left them. Quinn is ostracized by her father and the rest of her military town because a photo surfaces of her cheating on her deployed boyfriend, Carey, who was already a town hero. But nothing is what it seems.
Quinn is probably one of the most brave and loyal characters I have ever seen. She has a huge heart, and it springs from each page. I don't think I would have had the courage she had to keep a secret so honorably. All of the characters were deftly drawn, and I haven't seen more three dimensional characters in a long, long time. Each of them had a distinct personality. My personal favorite was her veteran best friend, George. He will not be easy to forget. Past and present is beautifully intertwined in a seamless pattern, and even with jumps in time, the narrative is easy to follow. The end is perfect-- the only way it could end.
I have nothing bad to say about this book, and that's really saying something. It's an amazing debut, and I raced breathlessly to the end, even though I have project deadlines looming over my head. It was that good.
Overall, a smashing first novel by Corrine Jackson-- she is an author to watch.
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Copy sent from the author
Summary (from Goodreads):
A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.
Quinn's done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey's not just any guy--he's serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.
Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she's vowed to keep--secrets that aren't hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she'll go to protect her boyfriend...and her promise.
What I Liked:
I have not read many books dealing with the military (other than Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, which I read AFTER I read this book), so I was not sure what to expect from this book. I have to say, this book pulled at my hearstrings and made me want to cry many, many times (and I am NOT a crier, for movies or books or anyone).
I had a feeling I knew what was wrong with Carey, both physically, and why Quinn had to lie for him. I felt so bad for Quinn, because she went through so many awful things, in order to keep a secret. I really felt bad for Blake, because he did not deserve to not get what he wanted.
This story is so twisted, but in a bittersweet, heartbreaking way. Quinn cannot be happy no matter what she does. Blake cannot get what he wants. Carey cannot get what he wants.Read more ›
This was a very powerful book. Days later, I am still thinking about it and pondering what happened and how the events factor into my own life. That, to me, is the mark of a good writer. There is so much I want to say about it that this review may seem a bit disjointed - forgive me.
Jackson alternates between the present and flashbacks that are strategically placed to give the reader little bites of what happened before Quinn became an outcast. It was hard for my mind to put the pieces together at first, but once it all clicked, I couldn't put the book down. Quinn is a fabulous protagonist. She is incredibly strong, as she is forced to be by the circumstances in her life. She does not ever take the easy road and endures more heartache than anyone should in the name of love. I enjoyed the scenes with George, her veteran friend, very much, and was glad Quinn had a bright spot in her otherwise very dark life. Carey was interesting to get to know. Even though he places Quinn in an impossible situation, he still reads very much like a hero, until the very end when he comes human. I wish Blake had been developed more. The reader understands that he is important to Quinn and Carey and Carey's family, but because we mostly only saw him through Quinn's present lens, it was hard to fully grasp how they got from point A to point B. I actually think a retelling from Blake's POV would be interesting.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book tore me in two. Where does someone draw the line between self-perseverance and morals when their life is shattering? Read morePublished 5 months ago by Live Outside
I had been dying to get my hands on this book, because based on the summary, this promised to be a really amazing read. And let me tell you... it was. Read morePublished 11 months ago by The Tale Temptress
*Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Review courtesy of The Tattered Page:
Oh, If I Lie. Read more
I got this book from a giveaway. My first impression of it was not very good. I did not expect much of it and did not look forward to reading it. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Maci and Zoe Read Books
I loved the character development in this book! The feelings, emotions, and personal growth of the main characters come to life right before your eyes. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
Amazing story that kept me thinking about it for long after I finished it. Though you might not get the dramatic ending you wanted, that's what makes the story realistic. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Emily
When I picked up If I Lie from the library shelf, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. From the description on the book jacket I thought it'd be your typical angst-filled... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Angela's Library
Maybe it was just me but with all the jumping around, I found it to be a little hard to follow from time to time but definitely a lot harder to put down. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Tanya
Quinn is being accused of cheating on her boyfriend, Carey, who is a Marine serving overseas, after a photo was leaked online of her kissing another boy. Read more