I have since wondered, of course, how my life would have been different if I'd decided to stay 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.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of my favorite reads in 2012, so when I heard about Annie Barrows' new book, The Truth According to Us, I was sure I wanted to read it. Even though Annie Barrows completed Guernsey Literary after her aunt, Mary Shaffer, the original author, passed away, The Truth According to Us appeared to have the same quaint feel as the other book, from the synopsis alone.
The Truth According to Us is set in the summer of 1938, while the US was recovering from the Depression. Layla Beck has just been banished by her senator father because she refused to marry the man he chose for her. Instead, he coaxed his brother to give her a job that took her to a little town called Macedonia in West Virginia, where she has been tasked with writing a book about the history of Macedonia in time for its sesquicentennial celebrations. While in Macedonia, she boards with the Romeyns, a formerly privileged family that has hit some hard times recently. There also seems to be some dark secret in this family's past that everyone is trying hard to conceal. Willa, the 12-year old daughter of Felix Romeyn, is determined to dig this secret out, even if it means spying on her family or neighbors or stalking her father. Jottie Romeyn, Felix's sister, is nursing a broken heart after the boy she loved stole money from her father and burnt down his factory. Felix, a playboy character, has been romancing Layla Beck with no intention of having a committed relationship.
The Romeyns, for all their faults, form a wonderful family that paints great on paper. They knew how to have fun and stood up for each other. Willa and her sister Bird make a charming pair that many siblings will relate to. Macedonia, the fictional town where this book is set, almost makes you wish it was real. But the town's character mirrors that of many West Virginian towns. The town's main source of employment was a hosiery factory that is also seeing mild trouble. Everyone in this town seems to know everyone else, and the small town culture is very much in effect in this book.
I loved the format of the book. While most of the chapters were written in narrative prose, there were also plenty of letters scattered throughout the book, giving it a very informal feel. Occasionally, Layla's chapters from her book about Macedonia interspersed with the plot.
Unlike Guernsey Literary, The Truth According to Us is a chunkster. At almost 500 pages, I found it very hard to keep coming back to this book. It should almost be a rule that cozy books should be short - they don't usually have enough of a suspense to compel one to return to it. Moreover, the fact that this is Annie Barrows' first book for adults becomes very obvious through the prose. None of her characters have enough maturity or even act like adults, despite being in their 30s. The younger characters, however, feel much well-written.
Even though I had issues with this book and just wanted to finish it the more I read it, it was still charming enough to be a delightful read - that is, when I actually got around to it. It has the same feel of delight that Guernsey Literary had, and it was filled with characters just as wonderful, but it was too long and the characters could have been developed better.
I received this book for free for review from the publisher.