Sarah's story begins as she's researching what she believes will be a book about her high school philosophy teacher, a charismatic instructor who taught her and her classmates to question everything—in the end, even the reality of historical atrocities. As she digs into the effects of his teachings, her life takes a turn into the fantastical when her wife, Marta, is notified that she's been investigated for sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach. To Name the Bigger Lie follows the investigation as it upends Sarah's understanding of truth.
Strange and wonderful ... The book is preoccupied with twinned phenomena and dual perspectives. It’s a book for our times, when singular truths seem less certain with each passing day ... She seems to be saying that creating art is as much meaning as we can hope for in this world. This might sound self-congratulatory, but it struck me as the ideal ending for this ouroboros of a book.
Gripping in part because it combines a detective story with a Kafkaesque nightmare of becoming tangled in academic bureaucracy. Crucially, throughout, Viren reflects on the relationship between truth and facts ... She threads her storytelling with subtle commentary on truth, honesty, and narrative ... Engrossing.
If Viren had pursued her original intent, the resulting book — about the making of a conspiracy theorist — would have been disturbing enough, especially as undertaken by someone with her expansive mind, journalistic skills and ability to write clearly about even the most opaque ideas. But the subject defies her initial plan and becomes far more unsettling in the process ... Viren...has pulled off a magic trick of fantastic proportion. There are elements here of the classic thriller that function like a flock of seductive doves, released to distract the eye. All the while, her other hand is shuffling multiple shells that conceal a critical reading of Plato, an examination of the mechanics of memory, a study of the anatomy of a lie and an analysis of misinformation’s insidious creep ... Viren quickly and masterfully re-complicates what only appeared for a second like a quick fix: It is in speaking the truths that are hardest to voice and to hear — like the fall of an idol, like the urge for retaliation when wronged — that we find our way out of the darkness of deceit. She may be a memoirist in style, but she remains an epistemologist at heart.