If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you probably are also a fan of Downton Abbey and maybe Jane Austen, so when Annie Barrows, co-author of Guernsey wrote her first adult book alone, The Truth According to Us, the bar was set high in anticipation.
My first foray into the book left me lacking and I put it aside, until a friend encouraged me to try again – and glad I did. The writing echoes some of the aspects I enjoyed in Guernsey with smatterings of letters between characters and the historical facts – this time about the a New Deal program called the Federal Writer’s Project before World War II. The style is the same yet different; Annie Barrows wrote Guernsey with her Aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, she wrote The Truth According to Us alone.
The plot is not a page turner but easy to follow:
“In 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.” Penguin Random House Publishers
But I am a sucker for child narrators – Flavia de Luce from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Jack from Room, Susie in The Lovely Bones, Rosie in The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake. Eleven year old Willa’s voice, until she loses it, in The Truth According to Us reminds me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Willa’s perspectives shares the spotlight with Layla, a young fallen debutante who has been banished from the country club set to earn her own living in West Virginia and Jottie, the bright local woman who knows about “fierceness and devotion,” the town motto and the underlying theme of the story.
It’s easy to be charmed with the romance, some adventure, a lot of soul-searching, and a good dose of humor.