THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US
by Annie Barrows
Edition I am reviewing on:
Read by Ann Marie Lee, Tara Sands, Julia Whelan and Various
PenguinRandomHouse/Random House Audio
Jun 09, 2015
1136 Minutes (just under 19 hours)
Large Print Paperback: PenguinRandomHouse/Random House Large Print | Jun 09, 2015 | 768 Pages | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 | ISBN 9780804194938
Hardcover: PenguinRandomHouse/The Dial Press | Jun 09, 2015 | 512 Pages | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 | ISBN 9780385342940
E-Book: PenguinRandomHouse/The Dial Press | Jun 09, 2015 | 512 Pages | ISBN 9780812997842
Audiofiles provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes a wise, witty, and exuberant novel, perfect for fans of Lee Smith, that illuminates the power of loyalty and forgiveness, memory and truth, and the courage it takes to do what’s right.
Annie Barrows once again evokes the charm and eccentricity of a small town filled with extraordinary characters. Her new novel, The Truth According to Us, brings to life an inquisitive young girl, her beloved aunt, and the alluring visitor who changes the course of their destiny forever.
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. http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/9072/the-truth-according-to-us-by-annie-barrows/#
I do not hand out gushing praise often or effusively, so, what I am about to say is indicative of how much I truly adored this story. This is one of my favorite books now; in my top 25 books of my life. Surprises, red herrings, emotional grabs all play a part inthe complex story and events this tale delineates. But what really nailed it for me, the two things that pushed it to the top of my book altar were the emotive power of Annie Barrows’ prose and how much I simply adored her characters. The trick of what I thought was confusing elements of time versus character age; that was what I felt would be the story’s “Big thing.”
But it is not. While there is some foreshadowing, the plot is not completely unexpected. The characters’ emotional processes are a real surprise. And their ability to triumph in the small ways of what seems, at first, to be small lives is amazing. I could feel Willa’s and Jottie’s life forces: their heart beats and breaths, how hot they felt with the sweat of summer trickling down their backs.
But, oh, the prose; particularly that describing the words of Jottie’s speech and her internal monologue — even that of her dreams. In at least one passage Barrows provides the best and most heartbreaking description of loss, of lost potential I think I have ever read.
Beyond that, choosing to live the life we have: a blend of choice and circumstance, destruction and forgiveness is what I think drives the story and gives it its real meaning.
That brings me to the “antagonist.” This is a peculiar term; usually it refers to a negative force. But in this case the antagonist is supposedly Layla who, as a newcomer to the town challenges the ideas held by the townspeople This leads to the good of most, and to the revelation, eventually, of long-buried truths that force painful, but positive change. We cannot live happily, completely, wholly under a lie. And, life is always bittersweet for no life includes all the possibilities we face at every fork in the road: we choose and a option is gained but another lost.
This book has kept me thinking long past when I finished it. Let yourself fall into this world of the past where ethos and pathos vie for a place in your heart; where a child’s love for one person has to vie against her love and attachment to another. There are just so many emotions, thoughts and feeling that came up with this story.
As to the audio portions of the book: Most audios are one person giving voice to many characters. In tis recording there were several actors giving character to one voice or more. They all did a great job without overdoing accents or emotions. This is an excellent production I would have been happy to continue listening to.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book. I LOVED it and with the recording “spoke southern” for several days after.
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