The Truth According To Us is by Annie Barrows, who co-wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I definitely read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when it first came out, and I think I enjoyed it, but I’ve forgotten the storyline. Something about a woman visiting Guernsey, letters and WW2 is all I remember.
The Truth According To Us is set in the 1930s, in a depression-affected town called Macedonia in West Virginia. The story starts with Willa Romeyn, of the infamous Romeyn family of Macedonia. Willa is 12, and she and her sister, Bird, live with their Aunt Jottie. Willa’s father, Felix, who is the most attractive man alive, comes and goes from their household in between bootlegging trips. Another two sisters, their husbands and another brother make up the rest of the Romeyn family.
The household is joined by an attractive young woman, Layla Beck, who has been banished from her senator father’s household because she won’t marry the young man he chose for her. Without her father’s allowance to keep her, Layla gets a job writing The History of Macedonia for the town’s upcoming anniversary as part of the Federal Writer’s Project. (By the way, the Federal Writer’s Project was real, with the US government funding written work during the Depression).
The story is told alternately by Willa, Jottie and Layla.
The histories that Layla digs up are nothing like the story that the town’s most important citizens want to read in the book, although they are much more interesting. Layla fits in easily with everyone in the Romeyn family except Willa, who dislikes Layla for falling in love with Felix.
Jottie and Felix’s father had been an important man in Macedonia before the Romeyn family’s downfall. He was the president of the American Everlasting Hosiery Company until the mill burned down during a robbery which went wrong. Felix and his best friend, Vause Hamilton, who died in the fire, were implicated in the crime, although Felix’s involvement was never proved. At the time Jottie was in love with Vause. Jottie never stopped loving Vause, although Sol McKubbin, who loved her since their childhoods, courts her throughout the story. (Why is there always a love triangle? People always want what they don’t have, it seems to be a law of nature. Or of romance in books, anyway).
The Truth According To Us started slowly, and for a while I was wondering if I would be able to continue reading. However, things improved and by the end of the story, I was racing along to learn what I probably knew was going to happen all along. As much as I enjoyed the second half of the story, the first half could have used a hard edit.
I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the town of Macedonia and the history, which were as important to the story as any of the characters. The heat is imortant too, causing a huge need for iced teas, ice creams and skinny dipping in the river (with Felix, of course).
The Truth According To Us isn’t a great read, but it is enjoyable. Skim the first half, then settle in to enjoy the second half and the conclusion.