Let me begin honestly. There is no hiding the love I have always had for Nicholas Gagnier’s work; whether that be his poetry or being a beta reader for his novel Founding Fathers, due to be released in the summer of 2019. However, this also meant I approached reading Leonard the Liar with a preconceived notion of Gagnier’s narrative voice. I hear Gagnier as an angsty yet wise before his time twenty something to thirty something year old, who is both equally in and out of love with the world around him. This was not the voice I heard in the opening of Leonard – the prologue which lays the foundations for the telling of this story.
Gagnier’s strength is in his characters. His ability to write about the complexity and brilliance of human nature all at once. His characters are not metaphors or windows to a bigger picture; they are the people, like you and me, living in the bigger picture; living in the world we struggle to recognise yet know all too well at the same time. Leonard in his fifties appeared to lack this for me but Gagnier soon turned the tide.
Each moment and encounter Leonard faces shapes him and reveals secrets, and paths he regrets walking down. From struggling to even see Gagnier in the prologue, I soon saw little parts of myself in every character. I saw myself in Skylar’s reckless yet needy nature. I saw myself in Leonard’s lies and his endless search for happiness everywhere, except where it already exists. I saw myself in Claire’s ability to love even if it means getting hurt. I saw myself in Luke’s short tempered fury but perhaps not in his ability to win a bar fight singlehandedly.
I read and enjoyed Leonard the Liar. I smiled, laughed and furrowed my brow. However, as the denouement opened I forgot about enjoyment and Gagnier’s skilful storytelling took hold of me – whether by the hand, heart or throat is hard to tell. All I know is I felt every last syllable. And I cried with both grief and hope because this is what Gagnier does. He introduces you to a man we can all relate to. A man who has secrets, insecurities and memories he would rather not share. A man who lies, loves and loses. But, despite all of the heartbreak in this novella, there is light. There is light wherever you would like it to be – in the happy ending, in the morning sky or at the end of the tunnel.
Gagnier always reminds us to ‘Never lose your light’ and I think for the first time it truly made sense, thanks to Skylar’s words:
‘I hope you will forgive me the words my darkness spoke, and use them to find your light.’
In short, mid-fifties Leonard makes perfect sense by the final pages and my preconceived notion of Gagnier’s voice was flipped on its head; introducing me again to him as a writer whose voice will always be heard above the crowd.