Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
Random House: 6/9/2015
eBook review copy, 512 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780385342940

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows is a very highly recommended novel about loyalty and secrets in a family and community. This is a perfect novel for languid summer reading!

Set in 1938 in Macedonia, West Virginia, The Truth According to Us uses multiple viewpoints and epistolary sections. The focus is on the Romeyn family and their border for the summer, Layla Beck. Layla is a Washington D.C. debutant who is being punished by her Senator father for not marrying the young man he chose for her. Through her Uncle Ben, the Senator has gotten her a job on the WPA Writers' Project and she has been sent to Macedonia to write a history of the city. Layla is boarding at Jottie Romeyn's house.

The Romeyns used to be an influential family in Macedonia back when their father was the head of the American Everlasting sock factory. After an arson fire that killed the close family friend, Vause, their circumstances have diminished. Now Jottie, cares for her brother Felix's two daughters, Willa, and Bird, as Felix comes and goes on mysterious business. Two aunts also live in the home and a younger brother is nearby.

Even before Layla arrived, Willa was suspicious about her family's past and hints that secrets that are being hidden. She decides to quietly snoop into what is the truth behind her father's business and why her Aunt Jottie never married. Once Layla arrives, Willa takes an instant dislike to her - even as her father Felix seems to be intent on charming Layla.

For Layla, what appeared to be a boring chore has turned out to be an interesting task. She is managing to meet all sorts of interesting characters as she proceeds with researching the history of the town. Interviews with local citizens are uncovering the truth behind the legends so often told as part of Macedonia's history. Layla also finds herself smitten by Felix's charm.

The Truth According to Us, while it does have letters to and from Layla as part of the narrative, is not entirely an epistolary. Most of the narrative is told from the viewpoints of Willa (12 years old), Jottie, and Layla. The quality of the writing is exceptional and the narrative rings true. She takes great care in keeping the historical facts in place and skillfully creates a realistic setting for her tale. The character development is excellent and all the characters experience growth.

Even while I wondered at the length of The Truth According to Us, Barrows kept my attention and slowly moved the plot along. While the length of the novel kept the pace slow, it felt right for a novel set in a hot summer. It also makes it a fitting summer choice and would be an excellent book club selection.

Annie Barrows, along with with her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, is a co-author, of the much loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.

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