The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us

4.3 16
by Annie Barrows
     
 

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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE • 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. 

Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE • 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.

Praise for The Truth According to Us

“As delightfully eccentric as Guernsey yet refreshingly different . . . an epic but intimate family novel with richly imagined characters . . . Willa’s indomitable spirit, keen sense of adventure and innate intelligence reminded me of two other motherless girls in literature: Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley’s big-hearted British mystery series.”The Washington Post

The Truth According to Us has all the characteristics of a great summer read: A plot that makes you want to keep turning the pages; a setting that makes you feel like you’re inhabiting another time and place; and characters who become people you’re sad to leave behind—and thus who always stay with you.”Miami Herald

“It takes a brave author to make the heroine of a new novel an observant and feisty girl . . . like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. . . . But Barrows . . . has created a believable and touching character in Willa.”USA Today

“[A] heartwarming coming-of-age novel [that] sparkles with folksy depictions of a tight-knit family and life in a small town . . . full of richly drawn, memorable characters.”The Seattle Times

“A big, juicy family saga with warm humor and tragic twists . . . The story gets more and more absorbing as it moves briskly along.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Annie Barrows leaves no doubt that she is a storyteller of rare caliber, with wisdom and insight to spare. Every page rings like a bell.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[The Truth According to Us is] as delightfully eccentric as Guernsey yet refreshingly different. . . . It’s an epic but intimate family novel with richly imagined characters, an intriguing plot and the social sensibilities you would expect of a story set in the South. . . . The traumatized girls, Willa and Bird, are exquisitely portrayed and the lasting damage caused by the abandonment is sensitively rendered. Willa’s indomitable spirit, keen sense of adventure and innate intelligence reminded me of two other motherless girls in literature: Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley’s big-hearted British mystery series. If Guernsey is a tribute to the power of books, The Truth According to Us is a testament to the toxicity of secrets. . . . Just as we did in Guernsey, we empathize with the characters as if they’re our neighbors. . . . Macedonia is a great place to spend some time this summer. The temperatures are soaring, but it’s nothing compared to the heat generated by this sizzling story.”The Washington Post

“Annie Barrows creates a worthy successor to Lee’s beloved Scout Finch. . . . The Truth According to Us has all the characteristics of a great summer read: A plot that makes you want to keep turning the pages; a setting that makes you feel like you’re inhabiting another time and place; and characters who become people you’re sad to leave behind—and thus who always stay with you. As Jottie tells Willa at the beginning of the book, the ‘Macedonian virtues’ are ferocity and devotion. The Truth According to Us is the sort of book that inspires both.”Miami Herald
 
“It takes a brave author to make the heroine of a new novel an observant and feisty girl . . . like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. . . . But Barrows . . . has created a believable and touching character in Willa.”USA Today
 
“[A] heartwarming coming-of-age novel [that] sparkles with folksy depictions of a tight-knit family and life in a small town . . . In a novel full of richly drawn, memorable characters, bright, feisty Willa is the standout. . . . Add The Truth According to Us to the stack of repeat-worthy literary pleasures.”The Seattle Times
 
“A big, juicy family saga with warm humor and tragic twists, Truth is lively and engaging. . . . The story gets more and more absorbing as it moves briskly along.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“A pleasant summer read . . . There is much to recommend this book: The characters are engaging, the historical details appear thorough and accurate, and there are sufficient conflicts and plot twists to render a compelling story.”The Roanoke Times

“Fans of Annie Barrows’s bestseller The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society . . . will recognize the author’s affinity for breathing life into her characters. . . . Barrows has crafted a luminous coming-of-age tale that is sure to captivate her grown-up audience. Against a lively historical setting, the joys and hardships of the rollicking Romeyn family will keep readers eagerly turning pages.”BookPage

“In The Truth According to Us, Annie Barrows leaves no doubt that she is a storyteller of rare caliber, with wisdom and insight to spare. As she subtly unpacks the emotional intricacies of the Romeyn family and their small West Virginia town in the wake of the Great Depression, we’re struck by the slipperiness of history—how the stories we tell each other and ourselves often demand to be interrogated; how the things we’re driven know about our families, our towns, our closest intimates, will always change us, sometimes over and over. Barrows is at her best here. Every page rings like a bell.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

The Truth According to Us is an irresistible novel, a sly charmer of a story about a small town in Depression-era West Virginia whose history is rewritten by a debutante on the run. Family histories, too, are unraveled, but mended by the fierce, strong women who dominate this delightful page-turner, a tribute to the power of love and forgiveness to heal even the most heartbreaking betrayals.”—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife

Publishers Weekly
06/08/2015
Barrows (co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) turns her attention to a small town in West Virginia during the Great Depression. Macedonia is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Into this insular environment comes a beautiful young outsider, Layla, who's been commissioned by the Federal Writers' Project to write a history of the town upon its sesquicentennial. She boards with the Romeyn family, formerly one of Macedonia's "first families," whose fortunes have fallen after a series of scandals, including a deadly fire at the hosiery factory the family once managed. Layla befriends reluctant spinster Jottie Romeyn, but Jottie's 12-year-old niece, Willa, deeply distrusts Layla's intentions toward Willa's dashing and often-absent divorced father, Felix. Told through a combination of letters and overlapping narratives primarily from Jottie, Willa, and Layla's points of view, the novel is also padded unnecessarily by numerous flashbacks and whole sections from Layla's work in progress. Some characters (such as Jottie's eccentric twin sisters) fail to live up to their initial promise; some plot points are developed and then dropped abruptly. Nevertheless, Barrows does capture the interior life of her primary characters in this portrait of a town on the border between the past and present, as well as North and South. (June)
Library Journal
05/15/2015
Barrows follows up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with a small-town story filled with big characters. In the summer of 1938 Layla Beck's influential father cuts her off and insists she find work with the New Deal program the Federal Writer's Project. Layla is sent to pen the history of a remote mill town in West Virginia and takes up lodging with the unconventional Romeyn family, one of whom is keen to help her uncover buried family and town secrets. VERDICT A warm family novel of love, history, truth, and hope that is a solid fit for fans of Lee Smith and Paula McLain. (LJ 4/15/15)
Kirkus Reviews
2015-04-01
The co-author of a novel about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands now turns her attention to scandals besetting a small Depression-era West Virginia town. Barrows, who co-wrote the surprise bestseller The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008), takes a similarly panoramic approach to the insular hamlet of Macedonia, West Virginia, using multiple points of view with epistolary interludes. It's 1938, and the owner of Macedonia's primary employer, the American Everlasting sock factory, has just laid off 44 workers over the objection of Sol McKubin, longtime plant manager. This would never have happened had the Romeyns, once Macedonia's most prominent family, not lost control of Everlasting after the original factory was destroyed by arson in 1920. The novel's main source of suspense is the mystery surrounding that disaster. Vause Hamilton was alleged to have set the fire, killing himself and wrecking the future of his best friend, Felix Romeyn. Presumably the motive was theft: the safe was robbed and some of the money disappeared. Sol claimed Felix and Vause were in cahoots, but Sol's motives are suspect: not only was he envious of the two golden boys, Vause and Felix, but he loved Felix's sister, Jottie, who had eyes only for Vause. Now Jottie, who has never married, is raising Felix's young daughters, Willa and Bird, the products of a short-lived marriage, while feckless but charming Felix disappears for long stretches. Willa, a whip-smart tomboy in the Scout Finch mold, is alarmed at her father's flirtation with Layla, a Washington, D.C., debutante who is boarding at Jottie's house and writing a history of Macedonia for the WPA Writers' Project. The novel is too long: an initial section of exposition regarding Layla, a relatively superfluous character, could have been streamlined, and italicized flashbacks abound. The ironic contrast between Macedonia's official and actual history is played to the hilt, and this unique corner of Americana—a mélange of Yankee and Southern cultures—is re-created as vividly as the very different Anglo-European milieu of Guernsey. Undeniably entertaining but as slow-moving as a steamy Macedonian summer.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385342957
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/14/2016
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
55,392
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

In 1938, the year I was twelve, my hometown of Macedonia, West Virginia, celebrated its sesquicentennial, a word I thought had to do with fruit for the longest time. In school, we commemorated the occasion as we commemorated most occasions, with tableaux, one for each of the major events in Macedonia’s history. There weren’t many, hardly enough to stretch out across eight grades, but the teachers eked them out the best they could. If it hadn’t been for the War Between the States, I don’t know what they would have done. When Virginia seceded from the Union, western Virginia got mad and seceded right back into it, all except four little counties, one of them ours, that stuck out their tongues at West Virginia and declared themselves part of the Confederacy, a piece of sass with long consequences in the way of road-paving and school desks.

Tucked up in a crook between the Potomac and the Shenandoah, Macedonia was a junction for generals and railroads alike, and by the time Lee hung up his sword at Appomattox, the town had changed hands forty-seven times, six of them in one day. Our teachers dearly loved to get up a scene of the townspeople stuffing their Confederate flags up the chimney as the Union troops marched in and yanking them back down again as the troops departed. The fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders got the war scenes, and the seventh- and eighth-graders got the short end of the stick, because not a thing happened in Macedonia after 1865, except the roundhouse blowing up and the American Everlasting Hosiery Company opening its doors. Half the town worked in that mill and the other half wished it did, but there was not much about the American Everlasting Hosiery Company that looked good in a tableau. Sometimes the teachers gave up and killed two birds with one stone by making the seventh-graders march across the stage, waving socks, while the eighth-graders sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” behind them. In 1938, though, the eighth grade hit pay dirt, because Mrs. Roosevelt drove through town. She stopped at the square, took a drink from our sulfur-spring water fountain, made a face, and drove away. That was plenty for a tableau, except that instead of making a face, the eighth-grade Mrs. Roosevelt said, “The people of Macedonia are lucky to receive the benefits of healthful mineral water.” My sister Bird and I laughed so hard we got sent into the hall.

Once the curtain had clunked down on our tableaux and we’d been herded back into our classrooms, I supposed that Macedonia’s sesquicentennial festivities were concluded. Hadn’t we just covered one hundred and fifty years of history in twenty-three minutes flat? We had. But not a week later came the Decoration Day parade, and that, I realized later, was the real beginning of the sesquicentennial. Later still, I realized that everything began that day. Everything that was to heave itself free of its foundations over the course of the summer began to rattle lightly on the morning of the parade. That was when I first heard of Layla Beck, when I began to wonder about my father, and when I noticed I was being lied to and decided to leave my childhood behind. I have since wondered, of course, how my life—and my father’s and my aunt Jottie’s, too—would have been different if I’d decided to stay at home that morning. This is what’s called the enigma of history, and it can drive you out of your mind if you let it.

Jottie and I were packed tight on the sidewalk, together with everyone else in town, to watch the parade. Usually it wasn’t much, the Decoration Day parade, just a matter of assorted veterans looking grim and the high school marching band. But this year, in honor of the sesquicentennial, we’d been promised an extra-fancy show, a real spectacle. And that was what we got: The United Daughters of the Confederacy flounced out first, with the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic hot on their heels. Then the Rotary band struck up with patriotic tunes, which was a lot to manage on four trumpets and had a terrible effect on the pony brigade. The veterans marched along, a pair of girls in skimpy outfits flung batons in the air, just exactly like a movie parade, except that only one of them could catch. We even had a float, The Apple Princess and Her Blossoms, smiling on the back of a truck. Out came the mayor, waving from his big green car, and behind him was Mr. Parker Davies, who had got himself up in a sword and knee pants to look like General Magnus Hamilton, the founder of Macedonia, which put me in mind of a question I had always wanted to ask. I nudged my aunt Jottie. “How come he called it Macedonia?”

She tilted her dark eyes down to mine. “The General was a great admirer of the Macedonian virtues.”

“Huh.” That was news to me. “What are they, the Macedonian virtues?”

“Don’t say huh. Ferocity and devotion.” The Apple Princess joggled by. It was Elsie Averill in a white dress. A lady standing just behind me leaned forward for a better look, and a big whiff of Jungle Gardenia went up my nose.

I squeezed closer to Jottie. “Did he have them?” I asked.

Jottie’s eyes followed Elsie for a bit. “Did he have what?” she murmured.

“Jottie!” I recalled her. “Did General Hamilton have the Macedonian virtues?”

“The General?” She lifted one eyebrow. “The General once chopped off a soldier’s toes to keep the poor man from deserting. You tell me, Willa: Is that ferocity, devotion, or just plain crazy?”

I eyed Mr. Parker Davies, imagining his bloodied sword raised high, a little toe speared on the point. That was ferocity, I was pretty sure. “Do I have them?” I asked hopefully.

Jottie smiled. “Ferocity and devotion? You want those?”

“They’re virtues, aren’t they?” I asked.

“They surely are. Ferocity, devotion, and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee at the Pickus Café.” I made a face at her, and she laughed. The parade passed by, turned around on itself, and straggled back up Prince Street.

I thought maybe I had a chance at devotion.

Now the Macedonia Chamber of Commerce made the turn and marched by, eight men in identical tan hats and overcoats. They looked like a set of matching boy dolls, only embarrassed. Jottie chuckled and flapped her little flag. “Hooray!” she cheered. “Hooray for our brave boys in the Chamber of Commerce!”

They pretended they didn’t hear, all except one. “Jottie?” he said, swiveling around. Jottie drew in a sharp breath, and I saw two spots of pink appear on her cheeks. She started to put up her hand, let it drop, and then changed her mind and lifted it in a little wave. That set him up; now he started smiling like crazy, and even though the parade was moving again, he called out to her, “I was hoping I might see you today, Jottie, I was thinking I might—”

A man behind bumped into him then, and he had to walk on, but he kept turning around to wave at her as he went.

“Who was that?” I asked. Nothing happened, so I gave her a poke. “Who was that, Jottie?”

“Sol,” she said. “Sol McKubin.” She opened her purse and rummaged inside. “I had a handkerchief in here this morning.”

And that would have been that, if I hadn’t heard a low laugh behind me. It was Mrs. Jungle Gardenia. “Shoo-oo, good thing old Felix ain’t here,” she hooted softly to herself.

What? I whirled around, wondering who she was and how she knew my father.

She didn’t look like someone he would know. She was wearing a young lady’s dress, even though she wasn’t a young lady, and her face was white with powder. She caught my stare and wiggled her drawn-on eyebrows at me. I turned back to Jottie quick.

“Jottie,” I said, giving her another poke. “Who’s Sol McKubin?”

“Is that Miss Kissining there across the street?” Jottie squinted at the sidewalk opposite. “In that polka-dot dress?”

I looked. It wasn’t any more Miss Kissining than it was the Lindbergh baby. “You must be going blind, Jottie,” I began scornfully, but I was drowned out by the Rotary band giving their final honk on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The parade was over.

That was all right with me. My favorite part came after, anyway. I took hold of Jottie’s hand, and we sailed out into the wake of the marchers.

It was like a second parade, with all of Macedonia milling along Prince Street, busying themselves with the real entertainment of the day: calling out, stopping to chat, and gathering into little knots to deliver up their opinions about the ponies, the batons, the float, and the mayor’s car. I dearly loved to walk down a street with my aunt Jottie. When I went alone, I was a child, and grown-ups ignored me accordingly. Sometimes, of course, they’d stop me to offer improving advice like Tie your shoelaces before you trip and knock out those teeth of yours, but for the most part, I was a worm in mud. Beneath notice, as they say in books. When I walked with Jottie, it was a different matter. Grown-ups greeted me politely, and that was nice. That was real pleasant. But the best thing, the very best thing about walking through town with my arm through Jottie’s was listening to her recount the secret history of every man, woman, dog, and flower bed we passed, sideways out of the corner of her mouth so that only I could hear. Those were moments of purest satisfaction to me. Why? Because when she told me those secrets, Jottie made me something better than just a temporary grown-up. She made me her confidante.

We were strolling up the street when we came upon Mr. Tare Russell in his bath chair. He wasn’t real old, Mr. Russell, but there was something the matter with him, and he had to be rolled around town with a blanket over his knees. When he saw us, he yelped, “Jottie Romeyn, you just come over here and let me feast my eyes on you!” Then he waggled his fingers so that his Negro servant would push the bath chair faster. It didn’t seem right; that poor man looked a lot older and feebler than Mr. Russell.

“Tare!” said Jottie. “What brings you here? I’ve never known you to come to the parade before!”

“Civic duty,” said Mr. Russell. “What kind of a person would miss Macedonia’s sesquicentennial parade?”

Jottie grinned. “I’ve been asking myself that very question, Tare, all morning long. How’d you like The Apple Princess and Her Blossoms?”

He didn’t answer. In fact, he almost interrupted her, he spoke so quick. “I thought Felix would be marching with the veterans. But he wasn’t. I didn’t see him.”

“Felix is away on business,” said Jottie.

“He’s been gone all week,” I added helpfully.

“Business,” repeated Mr. Russell, bunching up his mouth. “Well. Felix works like an old mule, doesn’t he?” Suddenly, he swung around and glared at me. “Tell him, when he comes back, not to forget old friends. You just tell your daddy that, would you?” he snapped.

I took a step backward. “Yessir.”

Jottie’s little hand closed around mine. “Of course we will!” she said cheerily. “We’ll tell Felix first thing!”

Mr. Russell waggled his fingers again. “Take me on home,” he barked to his old Negro servant. “You trying to fry me like an egg?”

We watched him go, and Jottie’s hand squeezed mine. “Let’s go window-shopping,” she suggested. “Let’s pretend we’ve each got ten dollars, and we have to spend it this afternoon or we’ll lose it all.”

So we did, and we were wrangling away about whether I could borrow two of her imaginary dollars for a pink silk dress, when we ran up against Marjorie Lanz. She lived down the street from us, and she talked all the time. She started up before we could even see her. “How-you, Jottie?” she shouted from inside Vogel’s Shoes. “Look here at these sandals.” She came out, holding a big yellow shoe. “How’d you like the parade, I thought Elsie looked real pretty, the Rotary could use some new blood, don’t you think? Where’s Mae and Minerva? Oh hi, honey,” she said, catching sight of me. “Aren’t you just cute as a button?”

I was too old to be cute as a button, but I nodded, being polite.

Now she was swinging the shoe back and forth. Mr. Vogel was standing nervously in his doorway, waiting to grab her if she walked away with his sandal. Marjorie gabbled on, “I heard you’re getting yourself a new boarder, Jottie, that’s nice, with all those extra rooms you got.” I shot a look at Jottie. First I’d heard of any new boarder. “Who-all you going to get, Jottie? Hope it’s someone with more starch in him than Tremendous Wilson, I don’t know how you stood that man, is it someone nice?” She paused and looked at Jottie expectantly. So did Mr. Vogel. So did I.

Jottie gazed at Marjorie Lanz for a moment, and then she leaned close. “My new boarder is a representative of the United States government,” she murmured. She looked suspiciously at Mr. Vogel. “That’s all I can say.”

“Ooooh.” Marjorie clutched the sandal tight. “It’s a secret?”

Jottie nodded regretfully, like she wished she could tell more, and turned toward Mr. Vogel. “That’s a nice sandal you have there, Mr. Vogel. Does it come in blue?” He shook his head no. “That’s too bad. Well, Marjorie, Willa and I had better be getting along. We have to clean out that new boarder’s room. The United States government doesn’t like a lot of clutter.” She looked at me. “They like it neat as a pin. Don’t they, Willa?”

Out of pure loyalty, I nodded, and then I waited until we were three storefronts away from Vogel’s Shoes before I asked, “Are we really getting a new boarder?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Jottie.

“Is he really part of the government?”

She smiled. “No. ’Cause it’s not a he.”

“A lady?”

“Yes. A lady.”

“A lady in the government?”

Jottie raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like you don’t believe a word I said.”

“I do,” I said slowly. “But how come I didn’t know about it?”

She reached out to brush my hair away from my face. “I thought you did know. Didn’t you see me move all those things out of the closet? You were sitting right there on the bed.”

I tried to remember but I couldn’t. I’d probably been reading.

I was usually reading.

Meet the Author

Annie Barrows is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a runaway New York Times bestseller that was named one of the ten best books of the year by Time and USA Today. She is also the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean as well as The Magic Half and its sequel, Magic in the Mix. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Berkeley, CA
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1962
Place of Birth:
San Diego, CA
Education:
University of California at Berkeley, B.A. in Medieval History; Mills College, M.F.A. in Creative Writing

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The Truth According to Us 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story with fantastical characters and twists!
PowerMacMan More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought that I would. I don’t normally read books like this. When I read the blurb, I thought that The Truth According to Us might be worthwhile reading, and I was right. Ms. Barrows takes us back to Depression era West Virginia. She tells a story of Layla Beck, the daughter of a U.S. Senator, who won’t do as her father demands, and is therefore cut off and forced onto welfare. She has never had to work a day in her life, but her uncle gets her a job working as a writer for the Federal Writers’ Project. Layla is assigned the task of writing the history of Macedonia, West Virginia in honor of their sesquicentennial. She moves into a boarding house run by Jottie Romeyn. The Romeyn family play a large role in this book. The Truth According to Us is told from the points of view of Layla and some of the Romeyn family, mainly Jottie and Willa (the twelve-year-old daughter of Felix Romeyn). Layla is finding out that history isn’t just black and white facts, but depends upon the point of view of the teller. She discovers that everybody remembers things differently, and a lot of people lie. They lie to themselves as well as to everyone else. Layla falls for Felix Romeyn, which starts to color her view of the town’s history. Jottie longs for a proper life for her and Felix’s two daughters, but she still pines for her high school sweetheart, who died in a fire under suspicious circumstances. Willa is growing up and trying to discover what life is all about. She is on a mission to find out the truth about her father and to protect him and her Aunt Jottie from that truth. Everything is intertwined. The Truth According to Us is a book that grew on me as I read it. The author developed the characters and the story together in a twisted web of truth and lies, love and love lost, told in a setting of a real life struggle during The Great Depression. Ms. Barrows knows how make her characters come alive. I give The Truth According to Us 4 1/2 Stars out of 5, and A Big Thumbs Up! If you are ready to take a break form a constant diet of Thrillers and Mysteries, I highly recommend this book. I quite enjoyed it, much more than I had expected. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the publisher.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit of an endurance race to get through. I started out strong reading the hardcover book, but then I had to return it to the library since it was a 7 day loan. I was able to get the audio book right away, so I picked up with audio starting on chapter 10. It took me several weeks to make it to the end because my daily commute is fairly short. The book is told in alternating points of view: Willa, a 12-year old girl speaking in 1st person, Jottie, her 30-something aunt who raised her, portrayed in 3rd person, and Layla, the 20-something writer who's boarding with them and writing the history of their small town in West Virginia. Layla's chapters are also in 3rd person or sometimes in epistolary form. The parallel stories of Layla's interviews for her book and Willa's "research" were enjoyable despite the slow speed of my progress through this book. Both characters were going after the truth and were determined to get it no matter what direction they were given by their superiors. I became really invested in the characters. They kept me reading/listening even when the plot got a little dull. This was definitely a character driven story. I loved Willa! I enjoyed her search for the truth about her family, her fierce desire to protect those she loves, and her strong voice. Annie Barrows knows how to write youth; that's for sure. I was undecided about Jottie. At times I was routing for her, but at other times I felt she was making life harder for herself. I did not particularly care for Layla, or Willa's father, Felix. I was impressed with Barrows ability to write in different styles and from different perspectives. Each character truly had their own voice. I especially loved the beautiful language of the short excerpts from the history book Layla is writing inside the story. While I didn't love this book, I am happy I read it. If you're going to do the audio book, I suggest the Audible version, so you can listen at 1.25 or 1.5 speed. http://momsradius.blogspot.com/2015/09/book-review-truth-according-to-us.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cecile-Sune-Book-Obsessed More than 1 year ago
Willa Romeyn, a bright 12-year-old girl who loves reading, one day notices things are happening around her that she doesn’t fully understand. She decides she needs to pay more attention and starts watching and listening more closely, but this seems to raise more questions than answers: Why is her father, Felix, disappearing days at a time without explanation? Why did her mother, Sylvia, abandon them several years ago? Why is Willa’s aunt Jottie sometimes sad? What happened to Vause, Felix’s best friend, who died many years ago? Who is Layla, the new boarder in their house? Why is the Romeyn family disgraced and poor when it used to be highly respectable and wealthy? What Willa will discover will turn her world upside down and make her wish she was still a clueless little kid. Meanwhile, Layla starts working for the Federal Writers’ Project on a history of the town of Macedonia while Jottie tries to find a way to give a more stable life to Willa and her little sister, Bird. The Truth According to Us is a wonderful story that deals with family secrets and the different ways truth can be perceived by various people. It takes place in the summer of 1938, at the end of the great depression. Macedonia, where the Romeyn family lives, is a fictional town based on Martinsburg and Romney in West Virginia where one of Annie Barrows’ aunts resides. The author writes beautiful descriptions of small-town living and how it can sometimes feel claustrophobic. Like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this book is partly written as an epistolary novel. It has colorful characters, and I especially liked Willa’s first person account. The other points of views used in the book are those of Jottie and Layla and are depicted in the third person. This allows the reader to see things from different perspectives and have a more complete story. The only negative thing I will say about this book is I thought there were too many characters in the novel, and this was a bit confusing at times. It’s a good thing I kept notes to keep track of everyone! Otherwise, it was a brilliant historical novel, full of humor, mystery and feelings. The Truth According to Us was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Three and a half stars. A pleasant and sometimes suspenseful read that just meanders away to its conclusion. The author skillfully renders the heat, conversation, and general doings of a small West Virginia town in the summer of 1938, and several characters are finely drawn and compelling, especialy Willa (who reminded me of Scout Finch) and her aunt Jottie. While the story centers on family secrets and small town rumors, with all their messiness and heart-wrenching moments, there is plenty of wit and good humor, too. All in all, a good story, truthfully and rather beautifully told.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received this book as an ARC Goodreads Giveaway from Random House and Annie Barrows. I am so excited to read this book! The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my favorite oldies that I re-read every couple of years and have made all my relatives have a go at as well. Annie Barrows has done it, again. The Truth According To Us is an absolutely fascinating look into the 1930's West Virginia South - mostly the little town of Macedonia. You are there. You can close your eyes, and see Macedonia - see Willa racing around trying to understand what her father is and does. feel the pull of Felixs' smile, need a sister like Jottie in your world. Back story for Layla Beck, our intrepid Federal Writers Project writer, is handled very simply and effectively with brief notes and correspondence with her life elsewhere, as she boards with the Romeyn family and prepares to write a brief history of their small village. Although 486 pages, not a word is wasted. This is a southern tale of a family you will understand perfectly and still adore. Even Felix. And you will again realize how necessary it is to let go of anger, and forgive if you can trespasses against you. A wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
This is a well researched novel in a very interesting time period. During prohibition and the depression, Layla must find her way. With the introduction to the Romeyn family, this debutante is exposed to a myriad of characters and experiences that change her life. This is not just a story about a woman in search of a new life. This is story about family and bitter betrayal. It is extremely witty in places and is very smartly written. Once I vested myself in the characters, it was very difficult to put down. It was a little slow in a few places, but it was a very good read. I received this novel from Netgalley for an honest review.
MWgal More than 1 year ago
a pleasant and compelling read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cowsr4me2 More than 1 year ago
What a lovely surprise this book turned out to be. A story of family and friends and the secrets they keep. Really enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Truth According to Us is Annie Borrows debut novel. Written in an epistolary format, and alternating between twelve-year-old Willa and her aunt Jottie Romeyn’s point of view and thoughts on Layla Beck. Layla moves in with the Romeyn family after her father sends her off to work at the Federal Writers’ Project. This novel is one of those books that as you read you can almost listen to the southern accent in the dialogues. The descriptions of the fictitious town of Macedonia really transports you to this quaint little southern town. The characters in this story are extremely colorful and funny. The book, however, was a little bit of a slow read for my taste, but overall a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Set during the depression in W Virginia, a once prominent family takes in the daughter of a Delaware Senator who is cut off by her family and working for the WPA writing the history of the town of Macedonia. During the girls research all sorts of secrets come to light about the town and it's families. Jottie, the beloved sister who runs the family lost her true love during a fire at her father's plant in 1920 and for 18 yrs has grieved, but does she know the whole truth. Little Willa, a pre teen, spends the summer discovering truths about her aunt, father and the long dead young man. I found the story gripping and the characters fascinating. A good summer read.