Anybody who follows me on social media knows that I have been losing my mind over E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. It was a fairly enjoyable read that captivated me from the start; I couldn’t put it down. I wanted – no needed – to figure out what was going on with Cady. I needed to remember what happened two years ago with her. I needed to know why nobody around her was helping her remember. Lockhart captures the emotional turmoil within Cady when reflecting on her family, her memories, and the love of her life Gat. I would highly recommend this novel to anybody, especially those who have an interest in amnesia stories and the family dynamics through the eyes of a teenager.
It is an honour to be a Sinclair. Apparently. Cadence Sinclair Eastman is a Sinclair on her mother’s side. It comes with a few perks: a beautiful summer home on Beechwood Island – one for your mother and each of her sisters, beautiful blonde hair that you shouldn’t ever dye because why would you ever want to hide your Sinclair blood, and, most importantly, an outrageously rich grandfather who is trying to organize his assets before passing away.
Sounds good right? Maybe not so much. For the sake of some juicy spoilers, we’re going to focus only on one side of the Sinclair name: the rich side.
It isn’t very clear as to how Harris Sinclair became rich. He graduated from Harvard, grew a fortune doing some sort of business nobody really understands, inherited land, and made intelligent decisions in the stock market. He got married to the beautiful kind-hearted Tipper and had three daughters, all who did not have to work very hard all of their life. Their father gave them anything and everything they wanted. The American Dream right?
After Tipper Sinclair’s death, it came time to divide up who will inherit what out of the three sisters. Carrie, Bess and Penny all argue over who deserves what over whom. Who should get this ivory animal statues, who should get the jewelry, who should get which summer house. The sisters argue over who needs it more, who mother promised it to, who called and visited more often. It is safe to say that these ladies are materialistic and money hungry.
They begin to bring their children into the battle by convincing them to talk to their Granddad and say how much they loved the pearl earrings, or how they are the first male grandchild so he deserves more of an inheritance than the eldest. The sisters try to manipulate their children to speak ill of their cousins to prove they, ergo their mother, deserves more.
Cady, Johnny, and Mirren are smarter than that though. They see the greed in their mothers and refuse to give into it. They become the Liars, lying to their mothers when they ask of them to speak to their grandfather. They resist this idea of competition between each other and genuinely want to spend time with each other. They gain more value in having fun with each other and being kids on the beach.
This resistance is short lived though once the mothers begin to become more ruthless. Each mother begins to give their eldest child ultimatums. You are to tell your grandfather how much you love this/why you deserve more, or else you will not be allowed to play at the beach anymore. You will not be allowed to buy your favourite clothes anymore. You will not be allowed to see your boyfriend again. They become the Liars, lying to their grandfather, saying how much they love the embroidered tablecloths when their mothers blackmail them.
Money makes enemies. It throws people against one another, creating the competition of who deserves more money over whom. It tears the family apart: the sisters fight and argue with each other, and the children become resentful towards their mothers for trying to convince them that they too must fight the fight. It becomes a battle of who did what better than whom and who is right and who is wrong.
Money makes people into manipulators. The mothers manipulate their children into doing the bidding to their grandfather. Harris Sinclair is manipulating his daughters by waving money and their inheritance in front of them, threatening to take it away if one toe goes out of line. He is controlling their decisions on how to raise their children and who they should even marry. Harris has a power over his family because he is the one who controls the money, and he is not afraid to use and take advantage of his power.
Money creates a rebellion. Cady, Johnny, and Mirren are tired of letting money and the Sinclair name dictate what they do with their lives. The Liars want to break free and burn down the symbol that has caused so much pain and anguish in their own families and within themselves. They must find a way to start anew when the arguments turn from petty conversations to drunken yelling matches and thrown wine glasses.
We Were Liars is about a trying to salvage broken ties and makes amends for the wounds created by greed and pride. The Sinclairs all must conclude what means more to them: their families and happiness, or their financial security and material wealth. Money has been able to equal all of these, up until now. The younger generation prove that money and the Sinclair name is not the answer, nor the giver of a happy life. They want to explore the outside world and live on their own terms. They want to be friends with different people and date the people they want to date, even if they are of lower status than themselves. The Liars want to learn from those outside of the Sinclair name.
A luxurious life does not mean a happy fulfilling life. It only means comfortable one. Cady’s comfortable life isn’t a very exciting one, for “if you want to live where people are not afraid of mice, you must give up living in palaces”. She yearns to live among the mice who show her the world, and there is very little that will stop her from escaping the Sinclair palace.