Cover image for Gorgeous lies
Gorgeous lies
McPhee, Martha.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2002]

Physical Description:
326 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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Returning to the Furey-Cooper family Martha McPhee introduced in Bright Angel Time , Gorgeous Lies opens two decades later. Charismatic therapist Anton Furey is dying, and the tribe he heads--his five children, his wife's three girls, and their uniting child, Alice--has returned to Chardin, the farm where they grew up and Anton played out his visions of communal living. Chronicled by film crews and reporters, they had been famous for being the new American blended family. But as Anton grows weaker, the hurts, allegiances, and betrayals of those years boil to the surface, and the childrenfind themselves reliving the knotty intimacy they share as they struggle to make their peace with Anton and Anton struggles to make peace with himself.
McPhee has already established herself as an acclaimed new talent; now she fulfills her promise. With shimmering prose and an acutely observant eye, she has created a portrait of an era and a family that explores the limits, and obligations, of love.

Author Notes

Martha McPhee is a Bowdoin graduate and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Redbook, Open City, Harper's Bazaar , and other journals. She is the author of Bright Angel Time , a New York Times Notable Book, and coauthor with Jenny and Laura McPhee of Girls . She lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This is a sequel to Bright Angel Time (1997) depicting the Furey-Cooper family 20 years later. Anton Furey, the larger-than-life patriarch of the blended family (his five children, his wife's three daughters, and their child together), is dying. His impending death becomes the catalyst for igniting hurt feelings that have always lived just below the surface. A charismatic dreamer, Anton bought a rambling farm to spin out his vision of communal living (all financed by his wealthy ex-wife) and was famously the subject of a documentary film on the new American family. His stepchildren now erupt into arguments with his natural children, fighting over possessions and medical treatment. Regret infects the family like a poison; even his second wife, usually annoyingly optimistic, is filled with venomous recollections. This is a difficult book to read, filled as it is with acrimony and unlikable characters. It is no doubt a testament to McPhee's talent that the book is so disturbing. For those who like their fiction edgy and unremittingly bleak--and they are legion--this is must reading. --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

An offbeat writing style and poetic metaphors distinguish this crowded tale of a patriarch, his harem of lovers and the litters of offspring they produce, the follow-up to McPhee's well-received novel Bright Angel Time. Gestalt therapist Anton Furey is dying of pancreatic cancer, and the people closest to him gather at the New Jersey family estate, Chardin, and recall the emotional ups and downs of life with a womanizing dreamer and charismatic charmer. His children with ex-wife Agnes insecure Nicholas, gentle Caroline, money-hungry Sofia, barely there Timothy and adopted Finny (son of Anton and an Italian maid) are not fully sketched: some are given vivid cameos, while others fade into the background. The children of Anton's wife Eve from a previous marriage cynical, headstrong Jane, model-perfect Julia and homely Kate are better drawn and as flighty in their loyalty to their stepfather as he is in his choice of lovers. Youngest daughter Alice, the only child of Anton and Eve, is Anton's favorite for her mix of joie de vivre and sweet gravity. Like an anti-Brady Bunch, the members of the sprawling double family fluctuate in their alliances and affections over the 25 years of Eve and Anton's marriage. Their one common trait is their hunger for Anton's attention and approval. As the novel unfolds, Anton's unlikely past is revealed: his Texas childhood, his early stint in a Jesuit seminary and his grand passion for the communal haven of Chardin. His insatiable need for connection particularly with women can be repellant (as when he pursues one of his stepdaughters), but it is his infectious zest for life that drives this invigorating if convoluted novel. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Introduced in McPhee's debut, Bright Angel Time, the Furey-Cooper clan is celebrated by the media as an exemplar of the blended family. But cracks in the family fortress are beginning to show. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER ONEPromiseTHEY LOVED ANTON. Every single one of them. Alice most of all. She was his youngest. Eve loved him. She was his wife. Agnes loved him. She was his ex-wife. Lily loved him. She was his lover. They all loved him. The little beady-eyed preacher woman, the woman who sold ducks, Eve's divorce lawyer who always had a different girl on his arm, the Strange couple from down the road. (That was their name, Strange, and they were strange, with dramatic drawn-out English accents, though they were not English-he a poet and a banker, she an aging actress.) The Furey kids loved him, of course. He was their father. The Cooper girls tried to hate him, but what they really wanted was for him to love them. Love them big and wide and infinitely, like a father. The Cooper girls were not his children.Once, they had all lived at Chardin-all the children, that is. Long ago in the 1970s. It was called Chardin for the Omega Point, and it was Anton's dream that he could create a home that was a perfect meeting place of the human and the divine: a divine milieu, the setting for a profound and mystical vision of God. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was his preferred philosopher. He upset the Catholic Church, scaring its thinkers into thinking about his attempt to combine evolutionary theory and Christian theology in a seamless whole.Chardin sprawled on a hill, the highest point in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, blessed with hundred-mile views and lapped by seas of green fields rolling into cornfields and forests with creeks slinking through them. And up there, there was a lot of sky with all its storms and sunshine. In the spring forsythia, magnolia, lilac, and dogwood bloomed. The house had been a hunter's cabin, added on to over the years by Anton and the architect so that wings extended from it, spokelike, sprouting glass rooms and lofts and decks. At one end of the house an indoor swimming pool steamed like the mouth of a dragon, so fiercely you could not see but an inch in front of you. Steam seeped through the cracks in the sliding doors so that that end of the house seemed alive. Anton, who was many things-a philosopher writing a treatise on love, a berry salesman, a dealer in Haitian art, a writer, a Gestalt therapist, a Texan-had wanted the indoor pool as a place to hold therapy sessions.The architect loved him. They had big dreams for what more they would do to Chardin. Dreams involving silos, Moorish courtyards, a barn, a tower on the barn, an office from which Anton could watch the setting sun. On the roof of this office he would gather all his children and friends to read poetry in the dimming light."I need a small pool. Big enough to fit twenty-five people or so and it needs to get pretty hot," Anton said to the architect upon first meeting him. Standing in the architect's living room, he also asked for a whiskey though it wasn't noon. Outside, Anton's turquoise Cadillac languished in the sun, filled with kids. "Scotch," the architect sai Excerpted from Gorgeous Lies by Martha McPhee All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.