It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any adult fiction from Annie Barrows, who co-wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society with her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, in 2008. (Barrows is also the author of the Ivy & Bean series for kids.) However, The Truth According to Us is worth the wait. In 1938, Layla Beck, the spoiled daughter of a U.S. Senator, is sent on a WPA writer’s project to write the history of small-town Macedonia, West Virginia. She goes there kicking and screaming, but once she arrives, she finds that the town is not nearly as dull as she expects it to be. Layla takes a room in the grand old home of Jottie Romeyn, a member of one of the town’s formerly prominent families who has been forced to take in boarders to make ends meet. Layla is quickly smitten with Jottie, her nieces Willa and Bird, and especially with Jottie’s charming brother Felix. As Layla pieces together the town’s history, she discovers that things are not as they seem, either in the historical accounts she hears or in the private lives of the Romeyn family. Layla’s presence causes some long-held secrets to unravel, and boy, do they ever!
Barrows creates captivating, unique voices for the characters who narrate the book: clever, sarcastic Layla; pragmatic, long-suffering Jottie; and my favorite, the precocious, funny 12-year-old Willa. The book oozes atmosphere and charm, just like the town it’s set in, and the plot moves along at a good clip. And while it’s an intriguing family drama, at heart this novel is the story of strong women who learn to find their voices and take charge of their lives in a time and place when men usually called the shots. Barrow draws some unique female characters, the kinds of women we all imagine our grandmothers and great-grandmothers to have been, back in the day. I couldn’t wait to see how their stories would play out.
Annie Barrows is coming to visit our library next Thursday, June 16. Please come out, meet the author, and support the launch of this terrific book! You can register at http://webres.cooklib.org/evanced/lib/eventsignup.asp?ID=47381.