The empathetic look at the complex world of infidelity, unplanned pregnancy, and adoption in Randy Susan Meyers’s new novel, “The Comfort of Lies,” draws on her background in social services work in the Boston area.
Her first book, co-authored when Meyers was in her 20s, is a nonfiction work on the impact of pregnancy and parenting on young couples.
In the following years, Meyers went on to lead an after-school program for The Mission Hill Community Center in Boston, and later became assistant director of Boston-based Common Purpose, a domestic violence intervention program.
All of these experiences, she said, even the “toxic” ones, have informed her characters and writing.
The relationships in “The Comfort of Lies,” which Meyers will discuss at the Duxbury Free Library on Sunday, are complex and troubled.
It begins with an extramarital affair between Nathan, a married professor, and Tia, an attractive young woman, that results in a child. Five years later, Nathan remains married and the father of two boys, and Tia is struggling to find herself and grieving for the little girl she gave up for adoption.
When Nathan’s wife see a photo of Tia’s daughter, she begins an unrelenting search for the girl, and the woman who adopted the girl is eventually brought into the story. As the lies and years of deceit begin to unravel, so too do the lives of the three women and their families.
Told from alternating perspectives, Meyers writes a compelling family drama that invites her readers to examine the consequences of the lies we tell and the secrets we keep, under the pretense of protecting those we love.
Meyers, the mother of two grown daughters and with a 6-year-old granddaughter, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is no stranger to difficult family drama, either personal or professional.
In a recent interview, she said: “When I was growing up, reading literally saved my life, and saw me through a lot of family trauma and loneliness.
“Growing up, I virtually lived inside the novel ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,’ and characters like Francie showed me at a young age that not everyone has a perfect family, and that you can make it through difficult times.”
“The Comfort of Lies,” Meyers said, initially was a short story focusing on Tia and highlighting how obsessive and unrequited love can lead someone into dark places and poor choices.
The book expanded, however, to explore the issue of how an infidelity that began as a private event can become a public and painful drama for all family members.
“I soon began to imagine what it must be like for a grieving birth mother who gives up her baby, to only receive photos once a year of her child. . . I thought a lot about that heartbreak,” she said.
“Yet even more disturbing for me to imagine was how a small child’s feelings and well-being can be swept aside by adult choices, in an event that could be potentially cataclysmic for her,” Meyers said.
“Keeping secrets may allow the liar to feel some safety, but in the end, secrets damage everyone in a family,’’ she said. “Whether it is the secrecy of an illicit affair or the truth about one’s birth, everyone suffers because no one is able to feel authentic joy or sadness — everything is muffled.”
She added, “ I think secrets sap the life out of important relationships, and leave little if any, true emotional availability.”
While the novel reveals much about the redeeming power of truths — even the hurtful ones — it also offers insights into the sacrifices and blessings of adoption.
“I think this domestic drama may allow everyone, men and women alike, to examine the hugely different ways we can be a family, regardless of where one comes from,” she said.