It’s easy enough for you to read the description of Annie Barrows’ THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US so I won’t bore you with a summary of the book – summaries, in my humble opinion, in the form of book reviews also tend to spoil the book and since I think you should read this book, I don’t want to do that. I will tell you what I loved about this book instead, and let the details show through there.
It seems like I’ve read a lot of adult literature lately that uses twelve year old girls as at least partial narrators and storytellers but Barrows’ Willa Romeyn is by far the most authentic and interesting. She is precocious enough to have opinions on everything in the adult world around her and yet she is still a little girl who gets swept away by Scarlett O’Hara’s antics and joining in the town war between kid armies. Willa doesn’t always get the adult world right, but she tries.
Part of Willa’s appeal to me is that I identify with her. I didn’t live in a company town in West Virginia between World War I and World War II, but I did my twelve year old summer with my nose in any book I could get my hands on, and many that I wasn’t supposed to get my hands on, while playing dutifully with my sister and wanting to trip the invisible line into adulthood.
Adulthood, as we all know, isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be and Willa sees that in her aunts; never married Jottie and married (but only on the weekends) twins Mae and Minerva. A child of divorce in a surprising time, she doesn’t like it when her often absent father goes absent, for vaguely illegal reasons, and acts like he might be in love with someone.
Barrows’ seamlessly weaves Willa’s first person perspective on events with Jottie’s third person narrative. That Jottie gave up the things she thought she wanted in life to be a mother to her nieces daughters, though their mother lives, and gave up love out of a sense of sisterly duty to Willa’s father is both proof positive that one can be happy even if one lets go of some dreams and evidence that sometimes family can ask too much of each other.
It is the truth of humanity, a truth we don’t really like to recognize.
The antagonist of sorts, and the vehicle of the story, is the Great Depression that brings a Senator’s daughter to the tiny town to write it’s history. She boards with Jottie, Willa, and family and she falls for Willa’s father, much to Willa’s dismay. Layla Beck is sort of the outsider/reader perspective on the story, coming in with preconceived notions of what we will find and altering our view of reality completely. She isn’t the most interesting part of the story but she is essential to it.
As THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US comes to its climax, I couldn’t help but feel like I really was in the kitchen with Romeyn family. There were moments I was crushed, moments I thought the outcome was perfect, moments I wished things were different, and moments I realized it didn’t matter because the story is what it is… and I want to read it again already.
(I received a copy of THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US through NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest an original review. All thoughts are my own, and are cross-posted on Goodreads, NetGalley, and my blog.)