Book review: WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

Regular readers of this site may remember that I am always keeping an eye out for books that deal with migraine.  I’m interested in novels that feature characters who have migraine disease, and I love nonfiction pieces that describe the complicated mechanism of migraine. Long before I earned a master’s degree in education, I had good reason to believe that bibliotherapy/guided reading would be helpful for anyone suffering from illness, including migraine disease. Several years ago, I posted on about this, hoping we could share ideas about all kinds of books that deal with migraine and/or other headache diseases in some meaningful way.

As far as nonfiction books go, I have read (or at least skimmed) a huge number of books that aim to decrease the frequency and severity of readers’ migraine attacks—some are b.s. and some are actually very well done. I can’t say I enjoy these books, but I do get good advice from them.  As a voracious fiction reader and bookstore owner, however, I’m a sucker for a really good novel. And when that novel has a main character who deals with migraine disease in a very real way, I am totally invested.

Cue E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, I will guarantee is THE hot summer read.  It is a beautifully told with an exquisite plot.  Don’t let anyone tell you even one more thing about the storyline: I guarantee the read will be more engaging if you go into it blind.

So, following my own instructions, I won’t go into detail about the ins and outs of the storyline, but I will tell you that before the book opens, the protagonist, Cadence, has been through a severe and mysterious accident that has left her with completely disorienting and disabling migraine attacks.  In the first copy of the book I acquired (yes, I own more than one—it’s that good), I kept dog-earing pages where Lockhart’s depiction of migraine was so spot-on I felt she was reading my mind.  I cannot recall a time when a narrator has brought this much focus on migraine disease with such apt descriptions.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of talking with the author at a publishing dinner in Seattle.  She addressed the small group of booksellers and said that several things and people inspired her to write this book. It seems her stepmother (I believe) and best friend are both migraineurs, and she has watched them suffer for years.  In her talk, she spoke about the parts of living with migraine I talk so much about on this blog, things people don’t really want to bring to light that often: the isolation, the way the disease just steals moments and hours and days from your life with no regard for what you  want or need.  I probably made a spectacle of myself as she spoke, as I started to cry, needing to wipe my nose and eyes on the fancy linen napkins at this posh restaurant.  I’d never heard a non-migraineur explain the disease’s effects so eloquently and passionately.  After dinner, I got a chance to talk to Ms. Lockhart and told her I simply couldn’t believe she herself didn’t have migraine disease.  She thanked me (after all, this was a compliment to her amazing writing skill) and said yes when I asked if I could talk about her book on

The book has SO much more in it that you will love, I promise you.  Head on down to the library or your town’s independent bookstore and pick up a copy.  You’ll meet a kindred spirit and also go on an unforgettable ride through a plot that will grip you the whole way through.

What novels have you read that feature someone dealing with migraine disease? How has reading about migraine in literature helped you cope?

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