Review of Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong

Told in first person present tense. 

A dysfunctional protagonist leads us through her obsession with a coworker. The main character self-consciously sabotages herself through ritual superstitions and coping mechanisms. The list of her disorders is not delineated but the reader may observe tell-tale signs of nearly every social issue a person can contain within one body.

The writing is fluid, way more commercial than literary fiction, a page-turner trick or two implemented at the end of most chapters. This is a quick read, but patience is required to put up with the protag’s deplorable decision-making paralysis, her awful judgment constantly triggering the next disaster. The only tension or conflict present in the book is the direct result of Katrina’s ill-adapted actions. It was frustrating, and I did not sympathize with her. I have met many who have dug their own graves while living lives they always complain about, but few of them matched Katrina’s level of unbelievably broken.

It was a harrowing experience in the same way riding along for a train wreck is. But there is little complexity, and not much literature to a train wreck. It is simply a sad and destructive force barreling toward doom. Misery loves company. Anyone who has worked for a staffing company or as a recruiter will sense the seething hate for the industry felt by our anti-heroine. But how else would you expect corporate America, let alone the healthcare system, to function? Hate it all you will, but she is the one to blame for her deplorable job, her circumstances, etc. She did not work hard and had the gall to complain about how her workplace treated her. The worst employees get treated the worst. Sorry not sorry.

The problem with reading a very intimate and close perspective is that you can easily hate the person you are keeping company with. I do not believe this was the author’s intention.

The better parts of the book are related to a slapped-together mystery and the disparate fascinations of the protagonist’s secret world intersecting. Overall, I was extremely unimpressed, but it is the kind of book you have to finish.

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