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The False Friend    by Myla Goldberg order for
False Friend
by Myla Goldberg
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Myla Goldberg, author of Bee Season, now brings us The False Friend. As a child, eleven-year-old Celia (a budding poet) and her best friend Djuna led a clique ('Their three most ardent satellites were Josie; Leanne; and Becky') and were systematically cruel to its most needy member. Then one day Djuna disappeared and Celia lived what she now believes to be a lie, having blocked her memories 'for a long, long time.'

As The False Friend opens, Celia (now a successful performance auditor) has remembered what happened to Djuna and decides to tell all. She begins by sharing with her lover Huck what she recalls: that she and Djuna had been fighting as they and their three followers dared a forbidden walk to the woods; that Djuna pulled ahead and 'the earth swallowed her up'; and that Celia had not tried to help but rather concocted a tale of Djuna getting into a stranger's car that was believed by their friends, families and by the authorities. Then Celia flies home to confess, followed later by Huck.

But nobody believes her - and they seem to have good reasons for that disbelief, in particular that the police had thoroughly searched the woods. What is going on? As Celia tracks down the three clique followers, she's forced to confront unappealing aspects of her younger self and the consequences of how she and Djuna behaved, but everyone else believes that the stranger abduction happened. As the story develops, readers wonder who is and was the false friend in all this? But ultimately, facing her past helps Celia to deal with her deteriorating relationship with Huck and to achieve a better clarity.

The False Friend is an intriguing, though slow to develop novel that explores perception and memory, how they affect different participants in tragedy, and how one must deal with the past before facing the future.

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