The Truth According to Us: A Novel
by Annie Barrows
Hardcover- $16.68

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes a wise, witty, and exuberant ...

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  ""Out of the Mouths of Babes"" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 07/02/15

The Truth According To Us, Annie Barrows, read by Ann Marie Lee, Tara Sands, Julia Whelan and others.
There are two tales interwoven into this book; one takes place in 1938 and the other in 1920. Twelve year old Willa Romeyn, a precocious, curious young preteen, who narrates the story, and Layla Beck, a young woman who is on relief and is working for the WPA, are both completely blindsided by their innocent and naïve appraisal of the world around them. As both explore the secrets of the town, each pursuing their own purpose, one eavesdropping and spying and the other interviewing and conversing, they expose mysteries, secrets and lies, in their quest for the truth. There are moments of pathos, joy, disappointment, grief, success, and failure. As the stories unfold, they make a compelling romance and mystery that will keep the reader completely engaged.
In the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, there are many likeable characters, although some are quirky and some seem to be really objectionable, Even the most evil, though, somehow, have redeeming features. The town itself is not always welcoming to residents or strangers. Tongues wag and small town gossip is widespread, but so is the warmth and embrace of small town life which the author has very deftly captured.
In 1920, the death of Vause Hamilton, in a mill fire, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, has never really been resolved to the satisfaction of some of the townsfolk. Conspiracy theories abound almost two decades later. In 1938, the Romeyn family that used to own the mill is no longer prominent in town. To make ends meet, Jottie Romeyn takes in a boarder, Layla Beck. Jottie, a spinster, is raising two young girls, Willa and Bird Romeyn, the children of her brother Felix. His wife, Sylvia, is no longer present in the home. Living in the house with Jottie and the girls are Felix, Jottie’s sisters, and twins Minerva and Mae, who only stay there during the week. Jottie’s other brother, Emmet Romeyn, is also a frequent visitor. Macedonian daily life deals with day to day survival, town projects, and the business of the mill, which is run by an authoritarian cold, businessman, Ralph Shank. Mr. Romeyn, the former owner, was kinder and gentler. He genuinely cared about the employees and their families more than his bottom line. The townspeople are all still reeling from The Great Depression, feeling the abstinence of Prohibition, and wondering about the gossip they hear concerning the Nazis and anti-Semitism, as Europe heats up for a war.
Layla Beck is the daughter of a well-known Senator. Because she failed to accept a marriage proposal from a very eligible bachelor and is doing nothing productive in her life, her father gave up on her, tossed her out and discontinued all forms of income. Because he was so disappointed with her behavior, he felt he had to teach her a hard lesson. He leaned upon his brother who headed up the WPA, to find her employment. Without income, she was forced to go on relief, take public funds, and also take the job, at her uncle’s urging. Her assignment was to write a book on the history of the town of Macedonia, West Virginia, in honor of its sesquitennial celebration. At first, she was furious about having to work in such a remote place doing such a boring job and was unimpressed by the townsfolk with whom she mixed. Soon, though, after soliciting her friends and family for help and being roundly turned down, she accepted her situation, and after meeting the Romeyn family, she began to enjoy the work and interactions with them. As they embraced her as one of them, she began to enjoy, rather than resent, her situation.
As Layla worked to discover the secrets of the Romeyn family and the town, Willa, who disliked Layla, viewing her as a threat to her relationship with her dad, used her charm and curiosity to ferret out information about her father’s secret life, the life that she did not share with him. Both Layla and Willa were more and more determined to sort through the rumors and rout out the actual facts. They both found, however, that sometimes you have to be careful about what you wish for because the information sought may not be what is expected, and it may hurt, rather than help, when things don’t turn out as hoped. The warmth and small town lifestyle shine through, as do Willa’s simple explanations for living life, for handling life’s troubles in the only way one can, for doing the best one can do, after all, was all that one could do, according to her philosophy. While both Layla and Willa make impetuous decisions with unexpected consequences, they both learn from the experiences in their own way, and both, although in different generations, come of age.
The mystery surrounding Vause, the reason Jottie was a spinster, the answer to the question of why Felix did not work in the mill his father once owned, are all resolved when secrets are revealed through Layla’s open research and Willa’s own particular way of investigating. As the history and secrets are unmasked, there is shock, disbelief and also despair. Still, with Willa’s unending ability to find a bright side, there is also hope for the truth when it is uncovered.
The letters that flew between Layla and her friends and family truly enhanced the novel. They were witty, poignant and thought provoking as her past was slowly unrolled. They further explained the differences in the lives of those in big cities when compared to small towns. Expectations were totally different for each class. The tongue in cheek humor illustrated in Jottie’s conversations and Willa’s mischievous behavior, curiosity and escapades followed by her excuses for her actions, will warm the reader’s heart. The characters were really well developed. I felt as if I knew them and experienced what they were going through. The charm of the town life and its residents, who appreciated the simple things, just might make some readers yearn for yesteryear and the simpler life of a town like Macedonia, warts and all. Truth, in the end, is found in different forms, in the eye, ear and tongue of each beholder.
I wish that there had been more of Layla’s witty correspondence with her friends and family. They were so enlightening about people’s behavior and preferences. Book groups will have a field day discussing the women’s issues brought up in the book. For many housework and husbands were the only possible goals; for others, it was social life, entertaining and needlework. Book groups can discuss the merits of independence, the benefits of good parenting, the dangers of sibling rivalry, and the pitfalls of parent child relationships. Then, of course, they can discuss each person’s own interpretation of the meaning of truth in any given situation; then they can discuss the possible value of lies.

 
  "" by LoveOfBooks (see profile) 09/22/15

 
  "" by Lucye (see profile) 01/14/16

 
  "The Truth According to Us" by Barbfrost (see profile) 01/24/16

Well researched, beautifully written and interesting plot describe this novel.

 
  "The Truth According To US" by mrblock (see profile) 04/20/16

What can the hiding and lying about your past cost you? And who's version of history do you believe when investigating the past history of a community. A young girl who goes off on her own when her Senator father cuts her off and is sent to a small town to write for the Writers Project the history of the town learns about what real life is like. She goes from being not accepted, the outsider, to becoming involved and a part of the family she is staying with. There is much to be learned and discuss from the reading of this story.

 
  "" by SRJacksack (see profile) 06/11/16

 
  "the truth according to us" by Carolynr (see profile) 08/09/16

n 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

in the beginning i thought i would be bored by this story. but the author is so good with descriptions and character development that you feel that you are right in this town in the middle of summer. there are no huge surprises..in fact what is great is that the ending is very realistic. Good book

 
  "" by windwardway2 (see profile) 04/27/17

 
  " This book won me over " by ebach (see profile) 09/21/17

Before I review THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US, you should know my attitude going in: I resisted reading it. I had read the THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY and did not like it. So I did not want to read another book written by Annie Barrows. But Barrows had really been a co-author of GUERNSEY, whereas she is the sole author of THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US. And what a difference that makes!

It's 1938 and Layla has come to the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, to write a book on the history of that town. She rents a room from a once prominent family in Macedonia, including 12-year-old Willa. Willa adores her father and wants to learn everything about him.

So while Layla investigates and discovers Macedonia and writes her book, Willa sneaks.

I read THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US only because my bookclub was reading it. But it won me over with its snappy dialogue and its different perspectives on what Layla and Willa find.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/11/18

 
  "The Truth According to Us" by Rose1 (see profile) 05/28/19

This story was a wonderful acknowledgment of how we can all change as people. It also reminds us of a simpler time where people also had problems to deal with. I think this book was wonderfully written and would like to see a sequel detailing the lives of everyone after the depression.

 
  "Slow started -don’t give up" by sisters4 (see profile) 03/18/21

I stopped reading it after 100 pages but was encouraged by others to keep reading. I’m glad I kept going. The story line is interesting but the characters were what drew me in to the story. Willa, of course, was the star character, I loved her.

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