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Fiction Literary

The Fake

A Novel

by (author) Zoe Whittall

HarperCollins Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Literary, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it


A con artist walks into a grief support group. Chaos ensues.

After the death of her wife, Shelby is suffering from prolonged grief. She’s increasingly isolated, irritated by her family’s stoicism and her friends’ reliance on the toxic positivity of self-help culture. Then, in a grief support group, she meets Cammie, who gives Shelby permission to express her most hopeless, hideous feelings. Cammie is charismatic and unlike anyone Shelby has ever met. She’s also recovering from cancer and going through several other calamities. Shelby puts all her energy into helping Cammie thrive—until her intuition tells her that something isn’t right.

Gibson is fresh from divorce, almost forty, and deeply depressed. Then he falls in love with Cammie. Not only is he having the best sex of his life with a woman so attractive he’s stunned she even glanced his way, he feels truly known for the first time in his life. But Gibson’s friends are wary of Cammie, and eventually he, too, has to admit that all the drama in Cammie’s life can feel a bit over the top.

When Gibson and Shelby meet, they realize Cammie’s stories don’t always add up. In fact, they’re far from the truth. But what kind of a person would lie about having cancer? And what does it say about Shelby and Gibson that they fell for it? From the author of The Best Kind of People and The Spectacular comes a sharp, emotional novel about lies, liars and the people who love them.

About the author

ZOE WHITTALL’s third novel, The Best Kind of People is currently being adapted for limited series by director Sarah Polley. It was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, named Indigo’s #1 Book of 2016, a Heather’s Pick and a Best Book of the Year by the Walrus, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and the National Post. Her second novel, Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a Lambda Literary Award for trans fiction and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her debut novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize and is being adapted for screen. In 2014 Whittall sold her first sitcom, Breaking, to CTV, and recently optioned the half-hour comedy Wellville to CBC. She has worked as a TV writer on the Emmy Award–winning comedy Schitt’s Creek and the Baroness Von Sketch Show, for which she won a 2018 Canadian Screen Award. She has written three volumes of poetry, most recently an anniversary reissue of The Emily Valentine Poems, about which Eileen Myles said, “I would like to know everything about this person.” Zoe Whittall was born on a sheep farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, has an MFA from the University of Guelph and has called Toronto home since 1997. 

Zoe Whittall's profile page


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Editorial Reviews

"Zoe Whittall has created her most extraordinary, complicated and loveable characters yet....Whittall explores the motives and pathologies of a liar in a compassionate, shocking and revelatory way. You want to yell at her open-hearted victims to beware of this lovely apparition. Whittall's liar is a villain, a monster, a con-artist, but oh such a vulnerable and broken one. Whittall follows the winding path of emotional devastation and upset wrought by lies in a page-turning tale that is impossible to put down. My perspective on lies and liars has forever changed after reading this book." — Heather O'Neill, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author of When We Lost our Heads and The Lonely Hearts Hotel

“Cammie is one of my new favourite villains of Can Lit. We have all met a Cammie. Maybe we have even been seduced by one. You will be by this one, and by Whittall's live-wire novel The Fake." — Jordan Tannahill, Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author of The Listeners

The Fake is as witty and sharp as it is humane. It is a compassionately strange and propulsive story that examines how some of us lie to others, how some of us lie to ourselves, and how all of us long to be deceived. I fell in love with these characters, and with the fabulist, fabulous heart that animates Zoe’s writing.” — Jen Silverman, playwright and author of We Play Ourselves

"I devoured this wild ride of a novel about one woman’s outrageous web of lies and the people caught it in. The Fake is a mordantly funny tale, as enthralling as it is emotionally astute." — Antonia Angress, author of Sirens & Muses

“Zoe Whittall's gripping new novel, The Fake, upends the expected scammer narrative. Instead of cozying up to the fake herself, we're caught alongside the two vulnerable people who cling to her as a quick fix for psychic pain. We know this woman who weaponizes false victimhood to get what she wants will only hurt them more, but the story's irresistible momentum defies us to look away.” — Laura Sims, author of Looker

"I read Zoe Whittall’s newest novel in a single, fevered page turning session. I couldn’t put it down! At once a romp, a cautionary tale and a thriller, The Fake taps so deeply into our human foibles, into the many ways that loss and grief can make us vulnerable in both friendship and in love. Whittall’s writing is as sharp and funny as ever. I loved this novel." — Amy Stuart, bestselling author of the Still Mine series and forthcoming A Death at the Party

“The genius of Zoe Whittall’s writing is her clear-eyed understanding of human nature, which she lays on the page in beautiful, startling, frank detail. At once a compelling account of a brazen con artist who preys on the vulnerable and a compassionate yet sharp look at compulsive behaviour from every angle, I inhaled The Fake as fast as I could — and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.” — Marissa Stapley, New York Times-bestselling author of Lucky

"A compelling, hypnotic tale about grief, lies and truth that forces us to examine what it means to trust, to deceive, to take advantage, and to be vulnerable. Whittall's latest is a terrifyingly honest look at the lies we tell each other and ourselves that moves at a breakneck pace until its heartbreaking, yet inevitable conclusion. I simply couldn't put this book down."
Alicia Elliott, author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

“Whittall does an excellent job of showing all that is appealing about Cammie while also revealing her duplicitousness. The novels raises the question of whether Cammie, even with her morally bereft antics, might still be a positive influence in the lives of the people she meets and deceives. The author also manages to draw quirky, memorable characters who are deeply flawed and still compelling. With accessible prose, insight into human nature, a slow build of suspense, and a fresh look at how we handle difficult events, Whittall has created a real winner.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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