It’s been a busy week and Wednesday just snuck up on me! How could it do that? I have a book to share with you this week that I just fell in love with! So let’s waste no more time, because I want to share my What I’m Reading Wednesday pick, Annie Barrows’ The Truth According to Us.
Annie Barrows co-wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and she is the author of the Ivy and Bean children’s book series. If you were a fan of the former, well, this book has a different feel.
The Truth According To Us is historical fiction set in the summer of 1938. Layla Beck is the spoiled daughter of a U.S. Senator, and, in her choice of reasoning for turning down a prospective suitor, her daddy finds a way to push his daughter out of the nest. Her uncle finds her a job with the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer’s Project – part of FDR’s New Deal plan for the unemployed – and after taking a pauper’s oath, she is sent to Macedonia, West Virginia to write a history of the town. Layla assumes Macedonia is in coal mining country and expects to be recording the dull histories of “toothless hicks” but is surprised on both counts. She finds lodging with Jottie Romeyn and her quirky family, who are not expecting a writer’s project author in a silk dress and white gloves, and this is where the tale slowly begins to unfold.
This story is told from two perspectives, Layla, as the outsider, provides a critical eye of the area and the cast of characters – at least, she does at the start. The second is offered by precocious 12-year-old Willa. Abandoned by her mother and with father Felix who silently flits into their lives as quickly he disappears, Willa, along with little sister Bird, is raised more by her Aunt Jottie. Precocious and a self-proclaimed “natural-born sneak”, Willa’s character much called to mind Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird with her determination and devotion to her family. She is a bookworm who is often accused of pilfering and wearing out her aunts’ copy of Gone with the Wind, precocious, and a self-described sneak; the latter two proving useful as she tries to discover what her father really does for a living, why her family is mostly snubbed in town, and why Aunt Jottie doesn’t talk much about her past. In the end, answers are revealed that both Layla and Willa may regret uncovering.
The pacing of the novel is languid, much like the effect of the West Virginia summer heat. Setting and atmosphere play a big role in the novel; Barrows carefully sets the stage of this small town and the pervasive heat almost becomes a character in itself.
This is the story of a stranger coming to town, and as she interviews the residents she (and the town librarian) write the realities (and not the fiction) of the town’s history. In the process, she plays her own role in picking apart the tangled lies from the truths of a town tragedy. It is also a story of relationships, their complications and their resilience, and it is this that really drew me into the novel as it drifted slowly through its tale.
Barrows has delivered a wonderful book that deserves proper time to read and absorb, so make plans to sink into a soft chair or a hammock with an ice glass of sweet tea at your side.
The Truth According To Us was released on June 9, 2014 by Random House Publishing Group and is available in hardback and for Kindle here. More info on Annie Barrows can be found at www.anniebarrows.com.
An advanced reader copy was provided to me by NetGalley from Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions found here are mine alone. This post contains affiliate links which, if used, help a teeny bit offset my web hosting expenses but won’t cost you anything.