Stella has returned to her home town where she finds herself attending the funeral of Marco, the older brother of her former classmate Denny. Whilst speaking to Denny, Stella discovers that Marco was something of a hoarder, and Denny is struggling to sort out all of his possessions. With nothing better to do, Stella volunteers herself to assist Denny in sorting through the assorted piles of garbage, keepsakes and valuables. Unfortunately, Stella has an unconscious habit of lying about herself. During one conversation with Denny, she invents a story about a strange local television show on which she and her friends had made appearances. Except, Denny remembers it too. A show that centred on a man named Uncle Bob and the stories he told. Stories that were not only eerie but quite possibly prophetic too.
This is yet another time where I’ve stumbled upon an author whose work I’ve not read previously, only to find myself hooked by the story.
I particularly liked how Pinsker wrote about the nature of Stella’s lies and how she struggles with her memories - unsure if they are true or an amalgam of things she’s been told. Fragments of her own life, blended with half-remembered pieces that other people have told her about their lives, mixed with her own hazy recollections. I found that to be handled well, especially as I often struggle to remember facets of my own life, memories often remaining buried in darkness until some random word or phrase from someone else brings them bubbling to the surface. Something I’m sure we can all relate to, but how accurate are those memories? Are they our own, or are they implanted by others telling us they happened, or are they overlaid with fragments of stories we’ve heard about other peoples lives? How many memories of things do we have, based solely on something such as a photograph or a piece of music, and how truthful are those memories?
For a short story, Two Truths and a Lie packs a lot into its pages. Stella and Denny are well-rounded characters, their conversations and reactions feeling natural and realistic. Not only that but familiar and relatable too. This is further reinforced by the mystery of The Uncle Bob Show. Sure, it carries a vaguely creepy vibe to it, but it’s nothing so far out of the ordinary that when Stella begins to delve deeper into the show, I never found myself wondering why? There were no, ‘why would she do that?’ moments, as the mystery isn’t one of danger or imminent bloodshed but one of exploring the unknown. Or rather, the vaguely recollected as each discovery widens the vague cracks of memory, allowing more light to shed on the events of the past.
The cover art by Chris Buzelli is certainly intriguing too. It has an almost fairy-tale quality to it that only adds to the mystery. You read the blurb, look at the cover and found yourself wanting to discover the enigma of why there is a face in the hillside.
I’m not sure as to whether I would class the story as a fairy-tale, though. It certainly has elements, although they are more subtle and buried. As if the fairy-tale is happening (or has happened) in the background of the main narrative.
Therein lies my only real complaint with the story. As much as I enjoyed it, I would have liked a little more definition to the ending. It worked well but was just a touch too vague for my liking. But, then again, maybe that was the point as it carried an air of mystery to it as we are left wondering what was real and what was only memory or imagination.
Either way, I enjoyed the story and, I can’t wait to read more titles by Sarah Pinsker. Two Truths and a Lie was an imaginative and original tale that strolled down a believable path and made me ponder the origin of my own (often fuzzy) recollections.
Those looking for visceral thrills should look elsewhere, but for anyone who wants to read something compelling yet enigmatic, Two Truths and a Lie is a good title to pick up.
You can find Two Truths and a Lie on amazon UK for the low price (at the time of posting this review) of £0.72
You can also find it at amazon US (again at the time of writing this review) for only $0.99