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Review: None of This Is True

2/5 stars

None of This Is True, by Lisa Jewell (2023)

TW: Pedophilia, Sexual abuse, Abuse of the mentally ill, Alcoholism, Victim blaming

I am a huge fan of Jewell's work and have reviewed a few others here (Then She Was Gone, The Family Upstairs & The Family Remains), but this one just didn't sit right with me. First of all, the title itself is a spoiler - which is super annoying, but not my main issue with the book.

I actually really liked the premise, and the first 3/4 or so of the book. Alix Summers has a popular podcast, a handsome husband, and two beautiful children. All in all, what seems like a pretty perfect life, but Alix feels restless and bored. While out at a restaurant celebrating her 45th birthday, she meets Josie Fair, also celebrating her 45th. Josie is odd and awkward, but Alix enjoys their brief interaction about being "birthday twins." Josie meanwhile, becomes fixated on Alix and manufactures a way to meet her "coincidentally" on the street. Josie manages to convince Alix to consider doing a podcast about her - someone who's not very interesting or noteworthy but is on the cusp of changing up her life (so she reports).

Through the podcast Josie begins to reveal some very disturbing things about her life - including the fact that she and her husband, Walter, started their relationship when she was just 14 and he was in his 40s, and that her two daughters each seem to have had extreme behavioral disorders when in school (they're now in their 20s). Ultimately, the two women's lives become increasingly tied together, and the story turns into a true-crime podcast, though I can't say more without spoilers.

I also can't explain all the things I disliked, because it would give the ending away, but the short, non-spoilery version is that Walter's pedophilia is basically just glossed over, with the power dynamics of that kind of situation - as well as that of Josie and her mother - being totally downplayed. There's a lot of victim-blaming (even if Josie is basically a sociopath). And mental health issues are treated as throw-away personality quirks. Meanwhile, Alix is painfully gullible and clueless, as well as weirdly unresponsive to the awful things being told to her.

Sad to give a Lisa Jewell book such a low rating, but this one just had too many ick-factors.


UP NEXT: The Familiar, by Leigh Bardugo

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