Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

I saw the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on various reading lists for a very long time before I actually bought it.   And it was even longer before I read it.  When I finally did read it, I wondered why I had waited so long in the first place!  So when I saw that one of the co-writers of that book has written a new one, I knew I needed to be one of the first people to read it instead of the last.  Add to that the fact that it is set in my home state of West Virginia, and it was a must-read for me.  Since Potato Peel Pie Society is set on a small European island, I was curious about how Ms. Barrows would make the transition to small-town America.  I felt that she made the transition well.  I liked how she portrayed the fictional past West Virginians—not as simple, uneducated coal miners, but as intelligent, determined and fiercely loyal people who were struggling through the Great Depression like everyone else.

The Truth According to Us is set in the fictional town of Macedonia, West Virginia in 1938.  It follows the Romeyn family: Felix, his sister Jottie, daughters Willa and Bird, and brother Emmett, as well as a new border who has come to spend the summer with them.  Layla Beck is the daughter of a United States Senator, but when she refuses to marry the man he chooses, he cuts her off and sends her to work for his bother.  Ben Beck is in charge of the Federal Writer’s Project and he sends Layla to Macedonia to gather information to publish a booklet about the town history.  Layla meets with many of the important people of the town, and is shown historical artifacts and is told great stories about the town’s founder and contributions to the Civil War.  However, some people have much different and more colorful stories about the founding of the town and its’ war history.  Along the way Layla hears stories about the Romeyn family, and she becomes more and more curious about their past—especially Felix’s. 

Willa Romeyn is twelve years old, and she’s spending this summer with her eyes open.  She wants to know the truth about her father and the secrets that everyone but her seems to know.   Jottie is determined to keep Willa from ever knowing the truth, and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her.  Willa believes that Layla is a threat to all that she holds dear, so she embarks upon a plan to save her father…but she may destroy their carefully built house of cards instead.

I am a huge fan of Ms. Barrows’ writing style.  Sometimes she uses third-person point of view, and sometimes she tells the story through letters and telegrams.  But what makes this story even more interesting is when she writes in first-person in Willa’s voice.  It’s a small reminder about how children see the world in a different way.  Willa is just trying to make sense of everything that is happening around her, and her curiosity leads her to find out things that she’d rather not know. 

The characters in The Truth According to Us are deep and intriguing.  They seemed realistic as each one had good points and bad.  I really couldn’t figure Felix out.  He seemed like a great father, but was he a bad person?  Jottie was a woman who seemed strong and capable, but one word from Felix could change her in a heartbeat.  Their relationship was very confusing to me, and even now I’m not sure that I understand it.  Emmet was my favorite character, and the twins, Mae and Minerva rounded out a great cast of characters.  

Bottom line, this story is about family, love and forgiveness.  I didn’t want to put it down, but at over 500 pages, it’s not a fast read.  It’s definitely worth the time commitment, though, and it’s a great summer read.  The Truth According to Us is sure to take its place on the best-seller list soon! 


Happy Reading,



I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required.  Look for The Truth According to Us on or around June 9.

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