A Review of The Truth According to Us: A Novel by Annie Barrows

The Truth According to Us: A Novel

by Annie Barrows

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.

Book Description

The Truth According to UsFrom 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.

Book Details

Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: The Dial Press (June 9, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385342942
ISBN-13: 978-0385342940
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

About the Author

Photo: © Amy Perl Photography
Photo: © Amy Perl Photography

Annie Barrows was born in 1962 in San Diego, California, but quickly moved to a small town called San Anselmo in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent most of her childhood at the library. She wouldn’t leave, so they hired her to shelve books at the age of twelve.

Annie attended UC Berkeley and received a B. A. in Medieval History. She knows more than the average person about 3rd century saints. Under the impression that a career in publishing meant she’d get to read a lot, Annie became a proofreader at an art magazine and later an editor at a textbook publishing company. In 1988, Chronicle Books hired Annie as an editorial assistant, from which platform she became successively assistant editor, managing editor, Editor, and Senior Editor. Somewhere in this trajectory, she acquired Griffin & Sabine, Chronicle’s first New York Times best seller.

In 1996, Annie received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Mills College and had a baby, a confluence of events that persuaded her to leave editorial work and move into writing. She wrote several non-fiction books on topics ranging from fortune-telling to opera before turning her attention to children’s books. In 2006, the first book in her children’s series, Ivy + Bean was published. This title, an ALA Notable Book for 2007, was followed by nine others. The Ivy + Bean series appears with some regularity on the New York Times best-seller list and a number of other national best-seller lists. The Ivy + Bean books have been translated into fourteen languages; in 2013 Ivy + Bean: The Musical premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A novel for older children, The Magic Half, was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2008. Its sequel, Magic in the Mix, came out in 2014.

In addition to her children’s books, Annie is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published by The Dial Press in 2008. A New York Times best-seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been published in thirty-seven countries and thirty-two languages.

Annie lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.

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