Monday, June 8, 2015

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

The Truth According to Us is a clever romp tied together by secrets and more secrets seen primarily through12-year-old Willa Romeyn’s eyes as she views her family in their small 1938 West Virginia town. Author Annie Barrows worked with her dying aunt to complete and co-author The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and is the sole author of the Ivy Bean children’s series.This is Barrow’s first adult novel since she co-authored “Guernsey.” The Truth According to Us and “Guernsey” are both period pieces and both feature epistolary aspects with letters telling some of their stories.

The book begins when a glamorous city girl, Miss Layla Beck,  moves into the Romeyn home as a boarder to write the town’s history for the Federal Writers’ Project in order to escape marriage to a man her prominent Senator father has chosen for her. She isn’t happy about writing about “a town full of toothless old hicks” but soon learns many stories including one about the mysterious 1920 death of Vause Hamilton who died in a fire he allegedly set at the local sock factory 18 years previously. The fire, the factory, the death, and other secrets have deep connections to the Romeyn family. Jottie Romeyn loved Vause and isn’t over his death nor is her brother Felix who was Vause’s best friend. Sol McKubin, the current plant manager, thinks Felix was involved in the fire and people in the town don’t trust Felix and his frequent disappearances. Young Willa, Felix’s daughter, is intrigued by Layla until a romance buds between Layla and Felix. Layla’s witty letters to her family help the reader understand the town and the times as well as offering relief from the linear telling of the town’s history and secrets.

Willa has a charming voice and Jottie’s character shines but much of the extraneous information about the town and some of its residents slows the tempo. The story is amusing, but this reader would have enjoyed it more had it been more concise. The American Library Association recommends it for young adult readers and I concur as Willa’s voice and her independence could attract teen girls who want to see what life was like during the depression. It’s also a good book for anyone who’d like to know more about the American Guide Series produced through the Federal Writers’ Project

Summing it Up: This is an appealing tale for readers who enjoy historical fiction, women’s stories, and a touch of romance. Lovers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will enjoy the setting, the way families protect each other, and the tensions caused by the romantic entanglements. 

Rating: 3 stars   
Category: Dessert, Fiction, Grits, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition
Publication date: June 9, 2015
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