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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
    Genre: Novels

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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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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'.

Barbara F. (Saint Louis, MO)

We need to look at the past, just don't stare
Not only did I enjoy this book, I am haunted (in a pleasant way) with the unanswered questions. I like ambivalence, imbalance and ambiguity. If you enjoy reading about ordinary people involved in less than ordinary events you might just be haunted rather than frustrated when you turn the last page. Excellent for a book club choice with many topics ripe for exploration...bullying, inert parents, self doubt, stifling home towns.

Patricia M. (Highland Heights, OH)

The False Friend by Myla Goldberg
"The False Friend" explores what it is like to suddenly find that you need to revisit a tragedy of your past and as you try to explore what really happened you begin to find out who you were and that may come as something contrary to what you believed you were. As Celia revisits her past and looks up the people involved, she finds that things are not and were not what they seemed. Some of this is reminiscent of someone looking back at "Mean Girls" and wondering how it all happened.

Ms. Goldberg explores this topic with great insight and the reader begins to wonder what would happen if they went back to speak frankly to the friends they left behind. The book is thought provoking and well written.

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.

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.

Carrol Ann S. (Ventura, CA)

The False Friend
Definitely thought provoking, causing you to look back to your school years, analyzing friendships and events and their affect on the adult you. The beginning of the story drew you in, but I soon felt let down and even though I wanted to continue reading, I was in no rush, happy when the end was in sight. Celia's interaction with Mommy and Daddy made me sad for her. There were several welcome surprises in the tale. I'm glad I read the book and would recommend it to anyone with a diverse reading list. It would be great for a book club selection.

...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
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  • Bee Season jacket
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