In Elizabeth Dewberry's third novel, Sacrament of Lies, the story picks up after her mother's suicide with Grayson's own mental state starting to slip as she sinks into a depression. She blames herself for her mother's death: If only she had been with her mother that night and not drinking, her mother might still be alive.
Months later, Grayson's packing boxes in preparation to move in with her new love Carter, the Governor's right-hand man and constant shadow. As she gathers her mystery novels, she comes across a biography of Huey Long, former governor of Louisiana and the only one to be so well loved as to be assassinated. Grayson doesn't recognize the book, so she chooses to glance inside. Hidden within its pages, there is a videotape. Grayson has no idea where it came from.
A few nights after moving into the new house, while Carter is not at home, she pops the video into the VCR only to wish that she hadn't. She sees her mother wearing her 'Jackie Kennedy' dress, as Grayson calls it, and trying to figure out if the camcorder is working properly.
She doesn't really know. It's the medication, she says; it won't let her concentrate. She asks whether the red light means it is recording and if Grayson remembers Amsterdam and the prostitutes. After her mother finishes rambling about the red light district, she settles down and says, "They are trying to kill me."
An astounded Grayson continues to listen to what she had assumed was the mindless chatter of the very ill. As Grayson sits in front of the television, her mother continues her confession. She says that she is being poisoned and that the culprit is her own husband and his men. Grayson now has to face the fact that her father, and quite possibly Carter, murdered her mother and got away with it.
The plot resembles a made-for-TV movie, only slower. At least in a movie the audience understands what the story is about and how the characters interact with each other 45 minutes into the movie. Not so in this novel that still leaves you guessing as to what is going on 170 pages into the 229-page book.
Dewberry creates a character that leaves the reader questioning not only Grayson's flickering mental status, but their own as well. What are we to believe? Is she making everything up? Has her mother's depression rubbed off on her? Are we as insane as Grayson seems to be for just reading this book all the way through?
Grayson isn't an easy character to like. She spends more time making herself look like she escaped from the psychiatric ward at a local hospital, than really endearing herself to the reader. It's hard to grow close to a character when she continuously contemplates suicide and fills over a hundred pages with self-pity. Become pro-active, Grayson! Take charge of your life!
Needless to say, Grayson is not the best example of the empowered female character. When she finally makes empowered decisions, she still does them hesitantly. What saves the character is that Grayson does change; she eventually snaps out of her weak-willed haze. Lamentably, it occurs towards the end. Had it happened in the beginning, the whole novel might have been salvaged.
On the surface, Sacrament of Lies is about a young woman's search for clues to her mother's death, but as the plot continues it becomes clear that the novel is truly about Grayson's journey toward self-discovery and emotional growth.
If you are into delayed gratification, Sacrament of Lies is your book: the best part isn't until the last 30 pages.
Dewberry may be a talented writer, but this book doesn't successfully illustrate that. This is not to say that book is awful, just a tad bit too slow. The pace might have increased had Dewberry used more dialogue between characters instead of depending on Grayson's inner monologue. Near the end of the novel, when there is more dialogue, the book becomes a lot more interesting.
Every writer has their bad moments, and sometimes bad novels happen to good authors. This is one of those times. ©
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