Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
Date of publication: March 21st, 2023
Genre: Fiction, LGBT, Contemporary, Queer, Adult Fiction, Thriller, Canada
Trigger Warnings: Cancer, Toxic Relationships, Gaslighting, Death, Mental Illness, Physical Abuse, Addiction, Self Harm, Suicidal Thoughts
A con artist can make you feel like the luckiest person on earth just to be in their presence. But when the jig is up, they ghost, and you’re left wondering if you ever mattered
After the death of her wife, Shelby feels more alone than ever—until she meets Cammie, a charismatic woman unafraid of what anyone else thinks and whose own history of trauma draws Shelby close. When Cammie is fired from her job and admits she is in treatment for kidney cancer, Shelby devotes all her time to helping Cammie thrive. But Shelby’s intuition tells her there are things about Cammie’s past that don’t add up. Could the realest thing about Cammie be that she’s actually a scammer?
Gibson is almost forty, fresh from a divorce and deeply depressed. Then he meets and falls in love with Cammie. Suddenly, he’s having the best sex of his life with a woman so attractive he’s stunned she even glanced his way, and for the first time ever he feels truly known. This is the kind of desire and passion that musicians have been writing love songs about for centuries. But Gibson’s friends are wary of Cammie, and eventually he too has to admit that Cammie’s dramatic life can feel a bit over the top.
When Shelby and Gibson find out Cammie is a pathological liar, they struggle to understand what they really want from her—sometimes they want to help her heal from whatever causes her to invent reality, and sometimes they want revenge. But the biggest question of all is: how honest can Shelby and Gibson be about their own characters?
I was kidnapped when I was eight years old. I was sitting in the Oldsmobile, the one we called Carla Number 3, with the broken passenger-side door that was held together with bailer twine and bungee cords.The Fake by Zoe Whittall
Gibson is still reeling from a divorce he didn’t see coming when he meets Cammie. Immediately taken by her, Gibson doesn’t at first notice the inconsistencies in her stories. He is just happy to find someone who loves him. Shelby is devastated by the sudden death of her wife. She suffers from hypochondria and severe anxiety and is floundering until she attends a grief counseling session. There, Shelby meets Cammie, who is grieving the death of her best friend. Connecting with her on a level that she only had associated with her deceased wife, Shelby opens her house to Cammie. But Shelby and Gibson soon discover that Cammie’s stories aren’t adding up. What happens when Gibson and Shelby meet up and compare notes? How will Cammie react? Will they be able to confront her?
This book is told from 3 different points of view: Cammie (in the beginning and end), Gibson, and Shelby. Cammie gave the start and ending notes (and her explanation for what happened). But, the main focus of the book was on Gibson and Shelby. Everything that happened was seen from their POVs (well, it was 3rd person), with Cammie being featured heavily. Usually, I’m not too fond of books with multiple POVs, but it worked in this case.
Cammie was a freaking trip. From her opening note, I knew her version of the truth wouldn’t align with Gibson or Shelby. Cammie is a scam artist and a psychological liar. She went out of her way to find people who were hurting/damaged. Cammie gaslighted her way through the book, and when Gibson and Shelby backed her into a corner, Cammie freaked out. But her ending did make me pause and wonder about some of the things she told Shelby and Gibson were true.
I felt terrible for Gibson. He was genuinely struggling after his divorce, and Cammie saw that. All he wanted was someone who made him feel attractive and who appreciated him for him. Cammie’s lies started on day one with him. Thankfully, he had a good group of supportive friends that refused to allow Cammie to bring her drama and lies into their lives. He was such a nice guy that he even went to help Shelby when Cammie started getting too much for her. I liked how his experience shaped him and how he turned out.
Shelby, on the other hand, was a hot mess. I don’t even know where to begin with her. She suffered from extreme medical anxiety and extreme general anxiety. Coupled with her devastation over her wife’s death, she was a freaking mess. I was not faulting her there because I would have been too. But, the one time she decides to go to a grief counseling group, she meets Cammie. And, of course, Cammie latches on to her. In a way, Shelby got the sharper end of the stick with Cammie than Gibson. But Shelby became obsessed with helping Cammie, which drove her to a mental breakdown. Her story resonated with me the most because of her ending.
The Fake didn’t have a happy ending; in a way, for all three, it did. It was more bittersweet and reflective. It was also more Shelby and Gibson coming to terms with themselves and why/how they let someone like Cammie into their lives.
Cammie did get the last note in. She wrapped everything up perfectly and tried to spin the story her way (I loved how the author did that). As I said above, I also wondered if some of her stories were genuine. You know that there is always a kernel of truth in a lie. That may be the case here, which is why I liked this book so much.
There are trigger warnings in The Fake. They are cancer, toxic relationships, gaslighting, death, mental illness, physical abuse, addiction, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
I would recommend The Fake to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Zoe Whittall for allowing me to read and review The Fake. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Fake, you will enjoy reading these books:
Other books by Zoe Whittall