A near-death experience causes Allan “Vic” Vickery to reassess what’s going on in his life. When he’s hit in the head with a golf ball that causes him to go into a coma for a month, Vic travels to a place in his mind where he plays a round of golf with others who are in a vegetative state. When he awakens, the book chronicles the antihero’s midlife crisis in having an affair, leaving his wife and playing high-stakes golf with a syndicate.
Before his accident, Vic is making an effort to patch up his failing marriage with his wife, Angie. After he wakes up, and Angie hasn’t made an effort to fawn over him and “realize what she almost lost,” Vic doesn’t bother. His behavior with Angie, the affair with his neighbor Roxanne, and the negligence he shows in his stable career as an art teacher makes Vic a difficult main character to like. His near-death experience just enhances his greed, entitlement and selfishness.
Sometimes selfishness isn’t a bad thing. It is important to look inward and take steps toward better self-care. But Vic’s selfishness went a step beyond a life overhaul. When he begins his affair with Roxanne and floats the idea of leaving Angie by her, he makes it clear that his leaving Angie has everything to do with his attempts at his own happiness and nothing to do with Roxanne. Roxanne makes it clear that she does not want to leave her husband. However, triumphant from his first golf winnings, he asks Roxanne to move into his cramped, dirty one-bedroom apartment with him. When she refuses, he becomes angry, accusing her of not wanting to leave her husband because of her secure lifestyle and possessions. While Roxanne doesn’t refute his accusations, she doesn’t confirm them either. Her reasons for staying with her drunk husband were her own, and instead of respecting her choices and her agency, Vic lashes out. He does the same thing with Angie, selfishly projecting his own assumptions about her feelings onto her to justify his affair and him leaving her. Then he becomes sullen when she moves on with someone else. If anything could have taught Vic the value of his own life and that others’ actions were beyond his control, it would have been a near-death experience. But it didn’t. Vic’s story is rife with similar scenarios, and the “difficult lies” in the book point to not only his farcical behavior while he’s still married and cheating on his wife, but to the lies he tells his mother when the marriage ends, the lies about his coma experience he tells his doctor to get out of the hospital, and most importantly, the lies he tells himself to convince himself that his chosen life path makes him truly happy.
Vic is the perfect antihero, and while readers might not like him, they’ll find his story interesting. Anyone who plays golf will get a thrill out of the high-stakes golf games. Contrary to other brush-with-death scenarios, Difficult Lies depicts the story of a man who doesn’t do good with his second chance at life. Instead, Vic makes a mess of his life, and the ending is a patched-up laundry list of things he wants to accomplish to be a better person. But like his cleaning lady, Olivia, and her inability to quit smoking, I didn’t have much faith in Vic to break his cycle of midlife-crisis-level behavior.
Rogue Phoenix Press