Layla Beck must choose between marrying a man of her father’s choosing or getting a job. She chooses the job and is soon bundled off to a town in West Virginia to research and write their history, as part of the Federal Writer’s Project. As digs deeper into the town’s past, finds friends and potentially a new family, but what secrets with her questions uncover?
A successful history is one that captures the living heat of opinion and imagination and ancient grudge.
What is history? Is it the facts that can be proven? What the privileged dictate? Or is it the stories told by the people who lived through it all? I liked the contrast in histories Layla encounters as she writes the History of Macedonia (not to be mistaken with the country of the same name). There’s the official, sanitised version and then the wonderful, humorous and scandal filled stories her friends tell her. We get to see snippets of the text she is writing throughout and see how she weaves the different versions together.
If none of us can be objective, then the problem is intractable, and all history is subject.
The narration is partly first person told by the young Willa, who sees her father as a god and is blinded to any negative behaviour she might hear about. And she certainly doesn’t want to lose him to Layla, who she hates as soon as she sees her father’s interest in her.
I wish we were like everbody else. I get real tired of lying.
The rest of the narration is made up of Layla’s correspondence with various people, most of which are outsiders who see the town as a backwater, and some third person perspectives where the narrative calls for it. We see how much Layla believes the history she’s creating for herself, even if the reader can see through it.
I enjoyed reading about small town America in the 30s, with bootlegging and the depression. The town relies heavily on a hosiery mill for work and times are tough. The attitude towards socialism is a reminder how much more of a capitalist country America is than here. We should be proud that our neighbours call us socialists if we help those less fortunate.
However, from about half way it was clear how the rest of the story would play out and the book, overall, was too long. In case of relationships, some are signposted from very early on and the final chapters seemed a bit rushed just to confirm where they all ended up. A few loose ends would have been fine considering how portentous it all was.
The Truth According to Us is published by Doubleday and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez Reads | MissSusie’s Reading & Observations
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.