Publisher: The Dial Press, June 2015
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In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.
At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Remember that old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? Annie Barrows explores the truth hidden under the surface in a small town in 1938 West Virginia. When Layla Beck arrives in Macedonia under orders from her family to help the Federal Writers’s Project write the town’s history to stay with the Romeyn family, she has no idea what she’s about to uncover.
Barrows tells The Truth According to Us with multiple narratives, switching between 12-year-old Willa, her aunt Jottie, and Layla herself. It took me a while to get used to the multiple narrative, but once I did, it was incredible. Willa’s narrative was caught between the young girl desperate to win her dad’s attention and the developing young woman, a mix of innocence and attempt at worldliness that fascinated me. Jottie’s perspective was a little more intriguing – she tries to hold the family together by putting her own life on hold. The own disasters in her past have made it hard for her to move forward, and therefore creating one of the most sympathetic characters I’ve read in a long time.
Each character tries to hold onto their own sense of reality/truth. Jottie ignores her brother Felix’s actions, Felix in turn ignores the struggle he’s putting his own family through. The only one who can see what’s truly happening in the family and town itself is Emmett, Jottie and Felix’s brother. His journey from the mild-mannered minor character to major player in the plot is one of the most fascinating character journeys.
I loved how each plot point and event in The Truth brought the story closer to revealing what really happened to in Macedonia’s factory fire all those years ago. It felt like the more the Romeyns pushed it away, the more it came into the light.
There were portions of the story that slogged a bit. Some of the letters and history chapters didn’t have the same power as the character narratives. Although they set the tone for Layla’s work, they rarely moved the story forward.
The Truth According to Us is an intriguing historical fiction read, delving in to exactly what happens when we stop judging the book by its cover and look inside.