Sometimes you have to read difficult stories in order to learn a little more about the world around you. A Suitable Lie is a difficult, unnerving story but it is written with such a sense of humanity that it is not impenetrable. It starts as a love story, single dad Andy Boyd, who has to balance his love for his son with the knowledge that it was childbirth that took his wife from him, finally seems to have a chance of new happiness when he meets Anna. But gradually this perfect picture takes on a dark, unsettling hue as the reality of control and abuse takes hold and a battle to survive begins.
Domestic violence is not an easy subject to face up to, even though the statistics scream at us that we should, but taking it on in a situation that reverses the traditional view and places the man on the receiving of an abusive relationship is perhaps even harder. This cannot be a gimmick, to do that would be an insult to all those who have suffered at the hands of violent partners, so it has to be authentic. Thankfully A Suitable Lie is exactly that.
To give some background, domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. It leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year. It accounts for 16% of all violent crime, however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police and it has more repeat victims than any other. It is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless and approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide. (Source: http://www.lwa.org)
It’s easy to like Andy, he’s a big friendly giant of a rugby player who cares for his son Pat with a deep love and attention that acknowledges the price that was paid for him. It is also easy to see why he is swept up by Anna’s energy and how the deeper he sinks into this relationship the harder he finds it to pull out, despite the enormous risks involved. Even in the reading I found myself not hating Anna but rather hoping for her, I could understand why Andy wanted to absorb her anger in the hope of freeing her from it, even though beneath it all he knew he could not succeed.
This is brave writing from Michael J Malone. He is a pretty imposing guy himself in the flesh but he writes with a moving, emotional tenderness that befits an award winning poet. Reading A Suitable Lie is a draining experience that takes you to the deepest, darkest depths of the human experience where there can be no happy endings, only release. It is not light entertainment to ripple the surface of frivolousness; it is heart rending, soul building, consciousness raising writing that sits you in front of a black mirror and beckons you deeper.