A scammer as alluring as she is elusive irrevocably upends the lives of two strangers in this gripping novel from the acclaimed author of The Best Kind of People.
“The genius of Zoe Whittall’s writing is her clear-eyed understanding of human nature, which she lays on the page in beautiful, startling, frank detail. I inhaled The Fake as fast as I could—and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.”—Marissa Stapley, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky
AN AUTOSTRADDLE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
After the death of her wife, Shelby is suffering from prolonged grief. She’s increasingly isolated, irritated by her family’s stoicism and her friends’ reliance on the toxic positivity of self-help culture. Then, in a grief support group, she meets Cammie, who gives her permission to express her most hopeless, hideous feelings. Cammie is charismatic and unlike anyone Shelby has ever met. She’s also recovering from cancer and going through several other calamities. Shelby puts all her energy into helping Cammie thrive—until her intuition tells her that something isn’t right.
Gibson is fresh from divorce, almost forty, and deeply depressed. Then he falls in love with Cammie. Not only is he having the best sex of his life with a woman so attractive he’s stunned she even glanced his way, but he feels truly known for the first time in his life. But Gibson’s friends are wary of Cammie, and eventually he, too, has to admit that all the drama in Cammie’s life can feel a bit over the top.
When Gibson and Shelby meet, they realize Cammie’s stories don’t always add up. In fact, they’re far from the truth. But what kind of a person would lie about having cancer? And what does it say about Shelby and Gibson that they fell for it? From the author of The Best Kind of People and The Spectacular comes a sharp, emotional novel about lies, liars, and the people who love them.
Two people are deceived by the same trickster in the diverting latest from Whittall (The Best Kind of People). Thirty-something Shelby joins a support group after her wife dies from an aneurism. There, she meets Cammie, the eponymous phony, who's delighted to encounter someone else who's under 40. Shelby, meanwhile, wonders what Cammie's doing there; "She looks too good to be in mourning," Shelby thinks, "like an Instagram ad." A parallel narrative follows recent divorcé Gibson, 39, who meets Cammie at a bar and is immediately taken by the wild younger woman who beats him at poker and suggests they have sex as a consolation prize. Shelby and Gibson both enter a honeymoon phase with Cammie (Shelby's is platonic, though she continues to harbor a crush), but after the two meet, Cammie's stories about performing on an Arcade Fire album and having a dead sister plus a cancer diagnosis unravel. The somewhat predictable narrative echoes TV shows like Inventing Anna and The Tinder Swindler, though there are deeper thrills in witnessing those in Cammie's orbit untangle their self-delusions. There aren't many surprises, but Whittall brings plenty of verve to the proceedings.