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February 14, 2012

Nicole Baart on Truth and Lies

Posted by Katherine

Nicole Baart lives in a small town in Iowa and is the mother of three young sons. After the adoption of her second son from Ethiopia, Nicole discovered a deep passion for global issues and co-founded a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, that works alongside a church and orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia. An accomplished novelist, she was a 2009 Christy Award finalist for fiction. Her new book Far From Here, which hit stores on February 7th, tells the story of Danica Greene, a woman whose husband disappears one day in his plane. Here Nicole talks about the nuances of lying. 


I’m a liar.

Don’t worry, I’m not pathological or anything --- I’m more of the garden variety sort of fibber. You know the kind: When my girlfriend gets a hideous haircut and asks me how gorgeous she looks, I manage a weak smile and tell her she’d look like a million bucks bald. Granted, I actually do think she is beautiful no matter what, but did you see how I sidestepped the original question? Or, try this one on for size: When someone asks me how I balance my writing career with parenthood, I grin and say something to the effect of “It’s wild and crazy, but I love it!” And you know what? It is those things and I do love it, but that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth would take me much longer to explain, and just might include a few tears as I come face to face with how difficult the balancing act really is.
I think we’re all liars. At least, a little.
Sometimes the truth is a complicated, slippery thing. And just when we think we’ve got a hold of it, it unfurls another layer and wiggles right out of our grip.
In Far From Here, my protagonist, Danica Greene, discovers the consequences of the little white lies we tell the ones we love. Dani is a serious, grounded young woman who is married to a freewheeling pilot. Though they are polar opposites in many ways, Dani and Etsell love each other deeply and strive to make their marriage not just work, but thrive. Yet sometimes even when we love each other (or maybe especially when we love each other), we try so hard to make things work that we don’t even realize our striving could actually be lying. In one passage, Dani recounts:
I let him kiss me, and as his lips met mine I imagined the dross of every splintered vow anointing our heads like Arctic snow. They were white lies, inconsequential, nothing. But necessary all the same. It was part of the process of coming together, the way we dulled our sharp edges on each other, made promises we had no intent to keep.
We had done it before. Pretended we fit like the hollow of earth beneath a rock that had rested against the same dirt for centuries. Millennia. And when the raw truth of our differences felt harsh and uncompromising, we shifted positions, tried again. It wasn’t deceptive, not really. It was who we were.
Do you agree? Is it deceptive to dull our harsh edges on each other? To soften the blow of our differences? Or are we liars if we offer anything less than the hard, uncompromising truth?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know the answers to those questions. My mother always used to say, “Honesty is the best policy.” But what about when the truth hurts? What about when the truth is enough to make us realize that who we are and who we want to be are not the same person? Complicated, isn’t it? Reminds me of another thing my mom always used to say: “Life isn’t easy.”
But it is beautiful. Beautiful and complicated and full of joy and contradiction and surprise. In Far From Here, Dani finds all that out along the way as she wrestles with the disappearance of her husband and the loss of her life as she knows it. It’s a miraculous journey.
Even if Danica Greene is a liar.