Thought provoking as well as entertaining, Michael French’s novel Once Upon a Lie examines two Americas—black and white—through the eyes of two young adults in the 1980s. Combination thriller, mystery and drama, the book flies along through gripping storytelling and excellent character development.
Prolific author French explores such topics as family relationships, equality and social justice to get at what he calls “the zeitgeist of America, the real driving force behind our country” – realizing that none of us are strangers, that we are each our brother’s keeper. Do we help each other survive, or do we allow others to drown in poverty?
Chapters flip back and forth between the viewpoints of Jaleel Robeson, a struggling African-American youth, and Alex(andra) Baten, blessed with material comforts, who both feel out of place and question the values of family and authority when confronting double standards.
Jaleel is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and he’s on the run in search of truth and justice. Alex feels lost, shrouded by lies and betrayal. Their lives intersect, and each will never be the same.
The book features recognizable locations like Lakeside Golf Club and an imperfect Toluca Lake in the 1980s, facing many of the issues still confronting us today. French creates compelling characters and thoughtful dialogue, though occasionally some plot points seem a little fantastic and the conclusion seems rushed.
French created character pages on Facebook and Twitter to elaborate on scenes in the novel, answer readers’ questions, and further develop Jaleel and Alex’s story, in what he calls “a dialogue with readers and the future of storytelling.”
Once Upon a Lie grabs readers’ interest from its opening pages as it considers what is justice and what truths and expectations we all attempt to live up to.