Wednesday, February 8, 2023

"The Fake" by Zoe Whittall - Book Review and Discussion



Hey reader! Interested in picking up a book about pathological liars? Keep reading to see my thoughts on "The Fake" by Zoe Whittall!


The Fake

by Zoe Whittall

goodreads // amazon // library

My rating : ★/ 5 

After the death of her wife, Shelby is suffering from prolonged grief. She’s increasingly isolated, irritated by her family’s stoicism and her friends’ reliance on the toxic positivity of self-help culture. Then, in a grief support group, she meets Cammie, who gives her permission to express her most hopeless, hideous feelings. Cammie is charismatic and unlike anyone Shelby has ever met. She’s also recovering from cancer and going through several other calamities. Shelby puts all her energy into helping Cammie thrive—until her intuition tells her that something isn’t right. Gibson is fresh from divorce, almost forty, and deeply depressed. Then he falls in love with Cammie. Not only is he having the best sex of his life with a woman so attractive he’s stunned she even glanced his way, but he feels truly known for the first time in his life. But Gibson’s friends are wary of Cammie, and eventually he, too, has to admit that all the drama in Cammie’s life can feel a bit over the top. When Gibson and Shelby meet, they realize Cammie’s stories don’t always add up. In fact, they’re far from the truth. But what kind of a person would lie about having cancer? And what does it say about Shelby and Gibson that they fell for it? From the author of The Best Kind of People and The Spectacular comes a sharp, emotional novel about lies, liars, and the people who love them. ( from


"The Fake" by Zoe Whittall
Book Review and Discussion



What Worked

Characters to root for - The two main characters in this book, Shelby and Gibson, are very different but at heart, they both seem like kind, good people. And the situation these characters get into, to a point, is definitely relatable. We have all had a relationship end and then had a rebound that was less than ideal, or perhaps we've been too trusting of a new friend and regretted it later. One of the strengths of this book is that it's easy to put yourself in the character's shoes and imagine what you might do. Because each character's circumstances are so different if you don't feel pulled towards one, you'll likely relate to the other.

Interesting Conversations - One of the things that kept me reading "The Fake", were the dynamics around mental illness and personal responsibility. There are several possible diagnoses for the abuser, Cammie, who is clearly mentally unwell. She is certainly a pathological liar and seems to have had this tendency for most of her life. The most intriguing dynamic to me was that Shelby met Cammie in her grief recovery group. Other people in the group knew that Cammie was a pathological liar and allowed her to be in the group despite the fact that she would likely take advantage of those around her - people who are already hurt and suffering, and also likely to fall into her trap. Some of the characters in the book excuse away Cammie's - in my opinion inexcusable - behavior saying that because she is dealing with a mental illness they need to be understanding and patient with her. I wish more of the book had dealt with complex topics like this because it added a lot to an otherwise mundane plotline.


What I Struggled With 

Very uneventful plot You are aware from the back cover synopsis of "The Fake" that Cammie is a liar, and there isn't much else revealed about her character or the other characters to keep you motivated to read. There is no big "event". There are many literary fiction books I've loved that someone might describe as - "nothing happened" - but in that case, there is always beautiful poetic writing with insights about life and love that stick with you or there is wonderful character development - it's certainly a balance that is hard to strike.  And unfortunately, this book didn't have those other elements to supplement a slow plotline.


The thing that most stuck out to me while reading "The Fake"- I was actually bored by the fact that Shelby and Gibson were being lied to and manipulated by Cammie. Is the big take away from this book that people lie? At some point, it is just frustrating to watch these people being taken advantage of while doing very little about it or while being in denial about what is really happening to them. 

But! If someone told me the story of "The Fake" at a party, I would be shocked, intrigued, and would have so many questions. Dealing with a pathological liar is definitely the kind of life event that you can imagine someone telling you about, either because it happened to themself or another friend, and everyone being very into the story. The disconnect, however, is that because we are with the characters while they are being taken advantage of, it's easy to see how it happened. There's very little intrigue. I think that particularly in the age of app dating, there are many people with far worse stories than this of abuse and lies, unfortunately, the bar has risen (fallen) and there needs to be more there to hold my attention in terms of bad behavior.

Have you read "The Fake" by Zoe Whitall? Comment below and let me know your thoughts on the book. If you haven't, comment down below letting me know your favorite unlikeable character. Thanks for reading, readers!


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