The False Friend: Book summary and reviews of The False Friend by Myla Goldberg

The False Friend

By Myla Goldberg

The False Friend
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2010,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

From the bestselling author of Bee Season comes an astonishingly complex psychological drama with a simple setup: two eleven-year-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out ....

Leaders of a mercurial clique of girls, Celia and Djuna reigned mercilessly over their three followers. One after­noon, they decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened.

The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward, their relationship falling into a rut that threatens to bury them both.

Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, but her family and childhood friends don’t believe her. Huck wants to be supportive, but his love can’t blind him to all that contra­dicts Celia’s version of the past.

Celia’s desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences. A deeply resonant and emotionally charged story, The False Friend explores the adults that children become—leading us to question the truths that we accept or reject, as well as the lies to which we succumb.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Goldberg uses beautiful, emotionally descriptive language to keep us with one ear to the ground, listening for the slow, quiet footsteps of creeping tragedy." - Booklist

"Goldberg misplays the setup, trading psychological suspense for a routine story of self-discovery." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. [A] layered, understated novel about the complex, ambiguous nature of memory and its effect on the dynamics of relationships. Great fodder for reading groups." - Library Journal

"Complex, compelling characters who defy pigeonholing override Goldberg's tendency to map out the plot too neatly." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carole
Justified opinion
Almost stopped reading this book about one third of the way through as I just couldn't connect with Celia, the main character. Nevertheless, something compelled me to read on; I was interested in how Celia resolved the issue of what really happened. My disappointment in the ending was strong enough to send me online to read other comments and lo and behold - most readers felt as I did. It wasn't just me! We similarly felt the ending was most unsatisfying, leaving us to draw our own conclusions when we would have preferred having the author do it for us.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Melissa (Books R Us)
The False Friend
I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. It took me a while to get into the storyline and the characters were not very interesting to me. I am not saying that the novel was bad, but there was something missing and the characters did not come to life. I have never read any of the author's other books so I cannot compare them. I was disappointed with the ending because it was vague.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Karen G. (Oakland, CA)
The False Friend
In the book "The False Friend" by Myla Goldberg the reader is thrust into Celia's dilemma in the first several pages without knowing much of who Celia's is or was, and the character development comes along with plot development. It is a book that reminded me of girls' childhood interactions and however seemingly innocent, the subtle bullying that females participate in and continue to play a part of even as adult women. This book brought me to recall several scenarios of my own and may do the same for others in a forgiving way, without having to deal with our past lives on Facebook.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Roni S. (Pittsburgh, PA)
The False Friend
The False Friend is a good psychological mystery. It is well written and I liked it better than Bee Season which is another book by Myla Goldberg.
The book deals with relationships - boyfriend, parents, and middle school friends from 20 years ago. It would be a good book for book groups. I was disappointed with the ending. However, once I reread the ending and concentrated on every word, I understood it better but still was disappointed.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Janet Schneider, Great Neck Library, NY
The Consequences of Bullying
In 'The False Friend', one morning on the way to her Chicago job Celia Dunst has a flashback to a tragic event 21 years earlier which resulted in the disappearance of her best friend Djuna Pearson. Galvanized by the need to confirm her long-repressed memories of the incident and her role in it, Celia searches for evidence in a visit back to her hometown in upstate New York. There the horrible truth about the Queen Bee-bullying behavior she participated in during her 11th year is revealed through Roshoman-style different perspectives from her family, childhood friends and Djuna’s mother.

How did the Celia at age 11 turn into the Celia at age 32? A gracefully-told story of gaining closure and facing hard truths, 'The False Friend' takes a thought-provoking and believable look at bullying behavior in young girls—at the consequences of trauma suffered by the target of bullying and also at the dynamics which lead to the behavior itself.

As the mother of two daughters now in their older teens, I was riveted by 'The False Friend'.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kim B. (Arlington, TX)
Didn't disappoint, but....
Based on the description of this book, and it's relatively short length, I had expected to devour it in one sitting. But I never really 'bonded' with the characters, even though I did like them. I rated this book a 4 because this might have been the wrong time for me to read such a book. The author did fascinate me with her exceptional prose; the kind that make you go back and reread a phrase, look up from the page and chew on it for a few minutes. If ever I have a rainy day with nothing to do I'd like to pull this book down and give it a second go.

...17 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Myla Goldberg Author Biography

Photo by Jason Little

Myla Goldberg is the author of the bestselling Bee Season, which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2000, winner of the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, winner of the Borders New Voices Prize, and a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award, the NYPL Young Lions award, and the Barnes & Noble Discover award. It has been adapted to film and widely translated. Her essay collection, Time’s Magpie, explores all her favorite places in Prague, where she lived for a year in the early nineties. Her novel Wickett’s Remedy grew out of her fascination with the 1918 influenza epidemic and explores the nature of human ambition and the frailty of individual and collective memory. Her third novel, The False Friend, was published in 2010. Her short stories have appeared in ...

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Other books by Myla Goldberg at BookBrowse
  • Wickett's Remedy jacket
  • Bee Season jacket
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