cover image The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrows. Dial, $28 (512p) ISBN 978-0-385-34294-0

Barrows (co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) turns her attention to a small town in West Virginia during the Great Depression. Macedonia is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Into this insular environment comes a beautiful young outsider, Layla, who's been commissioned by the Federal Writers' Project to write a history of the town upon its sesquicentennial. She boards with the Romeyn family, formerly one of Macedonia's "first families," whose fortunes have fallen after a series of scandals, including a deadly fire at the hosiery factory the family once managed. Layla befriends reluctant spinster Jottie Romeyn, but Jottie's 12-year-old niece, Willa, deeply distrusts Layla's intentions toward Willa's dashing and often-absent divorced father, Felix. Told through a combination of letters and overlapping narratives primarily from Jottie, Willa, and Layla's points of view, the novel is also padded unnecessarily by numerous flashbacks and whole sections from Layla's work in progress. Some characters (such as Jottie's eccentric twin sisters) fail to live up to their initial promise; some plot points are developed and then dropped abruptly. Nevertheless, Barrows does capture the interior life of her primary characters in this portrait of a town on the border between the past and present, as well as North and South. (June)