What THE LIAR shares with the other Thomas Savage book I’ve read his masterpiece THE POWER OF THE DOG (which I wrote about here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-power-of-dog-by-thomas-savage.html ) is unpredictability. I had no idea where it was going but unlike the stinging, powerful ending of DOG, THE LIAR chooses a far less dramatic tableau in which the behavior of its main character, Hal Sawyer, makes total sense from a psychological perspective.
To say Hal doesn’t live up to his potential is an understatement. Content to cruise by on his good looks, the unspoken theme here is his laziness and his belief that a good front is actually equal to accomplishment. Hal is raised by his strict, slightly crazy mother after his father and later his stepfather dies, marries a spoiled rich ranch heiress who leaves him pretty quickly but not before becoming pregnant.
Although Hal doesn’t meet his son face to face until the end of the book when he is grown up and got a family of his own, he does communicate with him by letter sending presents at holidays and making up stories about his success when he is in fact barely treading water as a salesman. When they finally do meet at the end, it doesn’t take much to see through Hal’s front.
Ironically his son does find success as a novelist and wealth too and has a good relationship with his young son and a good but slightly strained one with his wife. The vision of a father he never knew but idolizes at some level has kept him going at times.
The end is not a disappointment. Rather we are left with the thought that luck plays more of a part in where we go in life than we realize. Hal, in addition, never seeks to take advantage of opportunities. At one point, he is scouted by a Hollywood studio but does not do well in his screen test and that’s that. If that was me I would have continued chasing that possible goal!
Deceptively simple yet amazingly complex, I’m left with a book full of malnourished characters, short of emotion they need, who traffic in dreams. Some work hard and achieve them others like Hal are content with the facade.