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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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Vicki
    5 years ago

    As for another series, I’ve always felt that even though migraines are never mentioned here, the headaches that Harry Potter experiences sound like very explicit descriptions of migraines. It’s been a while since I’ve read the books so can’t go into particulars here, but the seering, blinding pain that Harry experiences sounds exactly like migraine to me.

    I even googled to see if u could find a connection between J.K. Rowlings and migraine but couldn’t find anything. She did, however, sponsor the creation of a clinic to research and treat MS, so she at least is interested in medical care of some sort.

  • Vicki
    5 years ago

    My headache doctor and I are both huge fans of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series (she said the books got her through medical school, and I have found that listening to them does a lot to help distract me from my pain. I’m even a member of the Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe fan club!)

    So my doctor was add intrigued as I was when I brought in _Might as Well Be Dead_ and pointed out that one character talked about having to back out of an engagement due to a migraine and having taken imigran for it! This book was written in the 1950s, long before imigran, the British name for imitrex, was ever imagined. Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?

  • Paggle
    5 years ago

    A Brain Wider Than the Sky – Andrew Levy.

    Got me through most of my bad times. A personal diary / research book. It is me.

  • Jules2dl
    5 years ago

    I love Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels. Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist who gets the occasional migraine. While that aspect of her character isn’t that well-developed, it adds an extra dimension for me in thinking of her as a migraineur.
    Thanks for your recommendation, I will download “We Were Liars Immediately”!

  • BethBlue
    5 years ago

    I love to pick up ARCs on eBay (I’m addicted), and I stumbled on “We Were Liars.” LOVED IT!

  • Paintchip
    5 years ago

    ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are copies of a book that are printed up before the book goes on sale and are sent to reviewers, librarians, bookstores, and similar outlets.

  • LAnnSmith
    5 years ago

    Hi BethBlue, What is ARC?

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