Saturday, June 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

I received this free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and so I was excited to get hold of a galley for The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows (one of the co-authors of Potato Peel Pie Society.)

Set in small town (Macedonia) West Virginia during the Great Depression, the story follows the fate of one of its "first families", the Romeyns, who are now somewhat fallen from grace. Felix Romeyn, the eldest son, has not followed in the footsteps of his late father, St. Clair, who was once the head of the local mill, the biggest employer in the town. St. Clair had been beloved by all. Felix is a rogue, but a handsome and charming one, who has caused mischief (and worse) his whole life and has never been held accountable. He’s selfish and often mean, but has a soft spot, sort-of, for his sister, Jottie, and his two daughters (the product of a hurried and short-lived marriage.) Jottie is raising his daughters, Willa and Bird.

Jottie is one of the protagonists. A calm, steady, caring character, she is nursing a deep hurt that goes back to the falling from grace of her family. In her younger days, she was deeply in love with a boy, Vause Hamilton, who was Felix’s best friend. She thought he loved her. That all ended on the day he betrayed their family, betrayed her in particular, and Felix, and died in the bargain.

Willa is another point-of-view character. Somewhere between dreamy and spunky, Willa is twelve, the awkward age where she is awakening to the world and realizes she has no idea what’s going on. She wants to understand things–most particularly she wants to understand her mysterious father. Since he tells her nothing, she decides to dig around on the sly.

And finally, there is Layla Beck, the spoiled socialite daughter of a senator. Layla doesn’t seem to belong in the picture. However, she enraged her father by refusing the proposal of a man worth a fortune. As her punishment, he cut her off and insisted she support herself. Then he arranged for her uncle (who heads up part of the WPA) to give her a job. She is sent to Macedonia to write a history of the town for its upcoming sesquicentennial. There she boards with the Romeyns, including the sympathetic Jottie and the nastily charming Felix.

As Layla uncovers the history of Macedonia—officially sanctioned and not, Willa uncovers the complicated truth about the Romeyns.

The book does have its charms (including scattered cute letters from Layla back and forth to her Washington friends and family). The extended Romeyn family are quirky and Macedonia is populated with a variety of types to entertain. However, the book goes on and on. It’s not that it isn’t enjoyable. For the most part it is. But it’s one of those books where you can be reading and reading and not feel like you’re getting anywhere. Readers will most likely figure out the truth of what happened long ago long before it all comes out in the open. So. . .I was just a bit bored. I finished the book because I’d invested so much time in it, more than because I was all that interested in seeing how it turned out.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar reaction to the book: quirky characters, good writing, but in the end a sense that we haven't moved on. Some of the characters have an emotional throughline, but not enough change to make a difference. I also thought Willa's insights at the climax showed far more maturity and insight into the human condition than her age warranted--even if she was a prodigious reader!