This novel continues the story of characters for the most part already encountered in The Long Stretch and The Bishop’s Man. The story moves between Toronto and Cape Breton and features the life trials of Father Duncan MacAskill, his sister Faye (Effie), a professor of Celtic Studies, and Effie’s former husbands (John and Sextus). Effie has a new love in her life, JC, who is also from Cape Breton but had been away working as a journalist in the US for many years. JC features prominently in this novel, especially his interest in a Canadian citizen on death row in Texas and his search for a daughter he fathered when he was a student. One plot line discusses Effie’s experienced of being stalked by a man she had briefly met in a cafe in Toronto.
Effie is still haunted by issues with her father which are often hinted about but never explicitly discussed (violence? incest?). This is mixed with another issue: the long term effects of all family members of post-traumatic stress disorder of former soldiers. MacIntyre also portrays the social transformations of Cape Breton Island with the construction of a land link, the migration of Cape Breton natives, the impacts of economic cycles in that region.
Effie’s trials with forming long term bonds also lead to the exploration of human attachments, and love in particular. Effie is quite uncomfortable with her daughter’s marriage to a much older man. JC’s work on the Canadian convict is related to an exploration of the sense of impotence, an inability to exercise one’s power, as opposed to a sense of adequacy and empowerment. In the end, JC dies from severe injuries sustained during a home invasion at Effie’s house in Cape Breton. Throughout the book, Father Duncan is conflicted about his commitment to the church and is mainly working at a homeless shelter in Toronto rather than being a parish priest.
I had liked The Bishop’s Man, but not so much The Long Stretch. Why Men Lie was an engaging read in part because of the familiarity of characters and landscapes. I am left wanting more closure at the end of it though, in a similar way as the other two.
MacIntyre, Linden. Why Men Lie. Random House Canada, 2012.