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The official Reading Group Guide for LIAR 

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. It’s usually taken as a given that memoirs are written in a first person point of view, but Rob Roberge makes the unusual choice to tell Liar in the second person. With the second person, does he seem to be trying to put the reader in his shoes, to tell his life story to himself for fear of forgetting it, or attempting something else? Why do you think the author made this choice, and to whom do you think Roberge is talking?

2. Roberge opens the book with the story of his childhood girlfriend’s murder, writing, “While many things happened before Nicole was killed, this is really where all the other things start and, to a certain degree, end.” Consider the ways in which his character seems to have been formed by the trauma of Nicole’s death. Is there any event in your own life, where you would say your own story might “start and end?”

3. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Liar is the inclusion of seemingly extraneous “source material,” ranging from eyewitness recollections of the Titanic to facts about boxing head injuries to the recounting of many suicides and murders that do not have a direct correlation to the “plot” of Roberge’s own life. Talk about your response to these interjections into the narrative and how they may have enriched or informed your understanding of both Roberge’s character and the book’s central themes.

4. Lidia Yuknavitch writes in her praise for Liar, “life is what happens between truth and the fictions we make to withstand it.” Discuss the term “nonfiction” and the nature of memory and writing when it comes to capturing facts. How absolute vs. subjective do you think the retelling of real events can be and remain “true?”

5. “You are not obsessed with death. You are obsessed by the fear of being alone.” How does Roberge’s shame over addiction, unconventional sexual desires, and mental illness factor in to the choices he depicts himself making that cut him off from those he loves and make his fear of loneliness at times a self-fulfilling prophesy? Has shame over anything ever caused you to isolate or made you feel lonely even if surrounded by people?

6. Roberge writes, “You learn early that pain is as complex and wide-ranging as love itself,” and although emotional pain from trauma and depression is a major struggle throughout Liar, Roberge at times depicts self-inflicted or sexual pain as a kind of portal to a more transcendent place. Discuss your thoughts about physical pain as a form of self-medication, intimacy, self-destruction, or love.

7. Women clearly play a deeply influential role in Roberge’s life, both sexually and emotionally. Talk about key female characters and what you think these relationships offered or meant to the character at different points of his life. Take some time to consider what the narrative might read like if told from the perspective of some of these women, rather than Roberge’s perspective.

8. Roberge writes about how he has gotten some of his scars, saying, “You find scars—yours or anyone else’s—beautiful.” In a culture obsessed with physical perfection, how might scars invert that to tell powerful stories about our lives? Do you have any scars to which you are attached, or which signify formative events?

9. One issue with which any memoir must grapple is how to include material from the lives of others that deeply impact the writer but don’t “belong” to him alone. Think of moments in Liar in which Roberge explicitly wrestles with this dilemma. If you were to write the story of your life, are there things you feel you could not include because of how it might impact other people?

10. Liar quite volitionally lacks what might be thought of as a conventional narrative arc—it is nonlinear, spans roughly four decades, and has no one central plot or clear ending. If someone asked you to describe what this book is “about,” what would you say?

11. Roberge writes, “you are not the same person you used to be. Except, of course, when you are.” What does he mean by this? In your opinion, do people ever really change? How might growth be different from change?

12. A raw and at times brutal story, Liar is also full of humor both black and absurd. What were some of the funniest moments in the book, for you? Can you think of times in your own life when you used humor to make sense of or forge through dark times? 

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