“The history of a city was like the history of a family—there is closeness and even affection, but death eventually separates everyone from each other."--John Irving, The World According to Garp
The Truth According to Us finds Layla Beck, a disowned socialite, working on relief for the WPA to write a history of small town Macedonia, West Virgina. The Romeyns, who used to own the sock factory that still employs most of Macedonia, take Layla on as a boarder. Soon she meets Bird, the youngest daughter, and Willa, a pig-headed 12 year-old whose determination to suss out secrets will eventually wreak havoc. Jottie, a big-hearted aunt who is raising the girls, offers up hilarious, off-color stories about what really happened in Macedonia, and her brother, Felix, the girls’ smooth but sinister father, offers romance and danger in equal portions. Emmett, another brother with union ties, and twin aunts Minerva and Mae round out the family.
As Layla researches her book and Willa spies on the adults, the difference between the “official” history of Macedonia and the true events comes clear, except in one case: a fire at the sock factory which killed the town’s golden boy, Vause Hamilton. Vause, who was Jottie’s beau and Felix’s best friend was found dead of smoke inhalation in the mill with a bag of money in his hand. No one who knew Vause can believe that he would ever steal or burn down the mill, and the mystery of just exactly how this came to pass still divides the town.
The strengths of this book are in its sense of place, the characterizations of Jottie and Willa, and its unexpected but realistic ending. Willa, who is a cross between Harriet the Spy and Anne of Green Gables is a delight, and Jottie’s stories are not to be missed. Once this book gets going, it is a wild ride down a country lane in a rickety Model T. Fans of Annie Barrows’ previous book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will not be disappointed in this new journey.