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The Truth According to Us

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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.

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.

486 pages, Hardcover

First published June 9, 2015

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About the author

Annie Barrows

78 books891 followers
Annie grew up in Northern California, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Medieval History. Unable to find a job in the middle ages, she decided upon a career as an editor, eventually landing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, where she was in charge of "all the books that nobody in their right mind would publish." After earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Mills College, Annie wrote (as Ann Fiery) a number of books for grown-ups about such diverse subjects as fortune-telling (she can read palms!), urban legends (there are no alligators in the sewer!), and opera (she knows what they're singing about!). In 2003, Annie grew weary of grown-ups, and began to write for kids, which she found to be way more fun.

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Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,109 reviews2,797 followers
December 4, 2020
The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

In 1938, wealthy, twenty four year old Layla Beck is punished by her father, for not marrying a man she didn't even like, and is sent to work on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Yes, wealthy Layla, daughter of a Senator, is going to be living on relief. Layla is naive, spoiled and has never worked a day in her life. But once she starts boarding with the Romeyn family, of Macedonia, West Virginia, she gets her revenge on her father by falling for Felix Romeyn and enjoying her exile, in ways she never expected could happen.

Felix is divorced and his two daughters, twelve year old Willa and nine year old Birdie, are mostly raised by his sister, Jottie. Felix and Jottie's twin sisters, Mae and Minerva, live with them, during the week, when they aren't with their husbands on weekends. This is a very close family, full of secrets and things they won't say. Precocious Willa makes this story for me, with her determination to learn all the secrets, everyone's secrets. She knows her father is popular and all the women flock to him but no one will tell her what he does for a living except to vaguely mention that he deals in chemicals. Felix always seems to be up to no good and if he's a bootlegger than Willa wants to bootleg, too. 

I enjoyed getting lost in this town and this family although I had very strong likes and dislikes concerning the characters. For most of the book, Layla was on my dislike list, despite her funny, biting letters to those who put her in her relief job. She was so naive and saw only what she wanted to see, even when Jottie tried to open her eyes to the real character of Felix. Yes, just like all the other women, Layla falls for Felix with a sickening thud. Willa loves her father with blind adoration and hates Layla to the point of wishing her dead. 

But during Willa's spying to find the answers to her family's dark past and buried secrets, she finds out some things that blow up the surface peacefulness of her family. What she discovers concerns Jottie's one love, dead for almost two decades, and Felix's claims about what happened to her love. This family may love each other but the love isn't a safe love or a healthy love. Felix and Jottie are tied together in ways that only hurt Jottie and allow Felix to lord over her, claiming to be her only friend. I enjoyed the story about the times, the town, and the people but I was left feeling sad for the things that don't really change by the end of the story. I feel that dysfunction continues for Felix and Jottie and that saddens me. But still, I enjoyed Willa (and her rude little sister, Birdie) so much and will miss this town and the characters, now that the story is over. 

Published June 9, 2015
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
November 30, 2019
4.5 stars. A tale of secrets and intertwined lives in the small, one-factory town of Macedonia, West Virginia in 1938. This historical West Virginia novel is by the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

description description

The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of 12 year old Willa Romeyn, her 36 year old aunt Josephine (Jottie) Romeyn, and Layla Beck, a young woman from a wealthy and prominent family who is boarding with Jottie for the summer while she writes a history of the town for the Federal Writers' Project. The FWP was an actual New Deal program, designed to support writers during the Great Depression, who were assigned projects like writing local histories and state guides, and assembling photos and oral history records of slavery.


Willa is a precocious young girl who takes it into her mind that she will be happier if she knows everyone's secrets, even though her uncle Emmett tries to warn her:
"My advice is this: Don’t ask questions if you’re not going to like the answers."

I folded my arms. "Well, honestly! How can I know I'm not going to like the answers until I ask the questions?"

His smile flashed bright. "Easy. You ask yourself if there's any answer that would endanger something that’s precious to you, and if there is, don’t ask the question."

Endanger? Nothing was endangered. "That’s silly. No one would ever find out anything that way!"

"Finding out isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Sherlock," he said.
Jottie takes care of Willa and her little sister Bird because the girls' father, Felix, flits in and out of their lives so much. She carries a world of pain from the past and has shut herself off from the social life of the town, but is slowly making tentative steps to reintegrate herself, even though she's torn about it.

Layla is a lovely, spoiled socialite who is forced to take a job when she refuses to marry the useless rich guy her father (a senator) picked out for her. Her uncle Ben gets her a job with the FWP. The novel is interspersed with letters between Layla and her relatives and friends, which add a nice touch of humor to the story. Layla, like Willa, soon finds out there's more than one side to every story. The local librarian points out to Layla:
"All of us see a story according to our own lights. None of us is capable of objectivity. You must beware your sources. . . The question becomes what do you want The History of Macedonia to be?"

"Me?" said Layla. "Why, I have no stake in the matter. There's nothing particular I want it to be." The moment the words left her mouth, she realized they were false. She wanted The History of Macedonia to spurn the dull and to amuse the witty, to advance the Romeyns and to trounce the Parker Davieses, and to announce that she, Layla Beck, had perceived that all that they had been blind to.
Historical fiction set in small towns isn't in my normal wheelhouse, but this book made me smile and made my heart ache, sometimes at the same time. It's interesting and insightful, and even when on the surface nothing particularly dramatic seemed to be happening with the plot for the first half of the book, I was still fascinated with the different personalities and the sense that peoples' secrets and perceptions were inexorably approaching a tipping point.

Almost until the very end of the book, I was strongly inclined to round it up to 5 stars, but I thought the ending was just a little flat, especially the epilogue and the scene on which the entire book ends. So that, combined with some slow spots and the feeling that Willa's personality and voice were a little too advanced for a 12 year old, prompted me to round down. But overall, it's still a very strong story and well worth reading.
The truth of other people is a ceaseless business. You try to fix your ideas about them, and you choke on the clot you’ve made.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review. Thank you!

Content note: One non-explicit sex scene, and I think I recall seeing one F-bomb. Overall I consider this a clean read.
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews317 followers
February 19, 2017
This book could have used serious editing--as in cutting at least 150 pages--and more diligent focus on characters, narrative and plot. As you’ll note from the description, the author was partly responsible for The Guernsey Literary Society, a book that simply oozed with charm and lovable characters, and I am left to wonder how much input this author had in that book’s success. How many ways did this story disappoint?

1. Length. It took over 250 pages before anything really happened. I think half a book to establish characters and setting, especially when these fall so far short in the end, is indulgent. Where is the pay off after devoting this much time to a story? Continually reading about how hot it is in West Virginia in summer doesn’t set much of a scene.

2. Characters. There are some quirky and charming characters in this story—twin sisters Mae and Minerva to name just two—yet they are not fully developed, they appear like wallpaper and I think their humor and story lines would have added immeasurably to the story. Just as the character of Layla, one of the main protagonists, falls flat. Her spoiled brat persona thrown in the trenches of public assistance should have made for a better metamorphosis.

3. Narrative. The writing wasn’t bad and it did contain the occasional brilliantly crafted phrase, however, it was terribly confusing to change narrators constantly in midstream, as in within a chapter, and so often. I’m a fan of multiple narrators from chapter-to-chapter, but those are usually accompanied by a heading to announce a differing point of view. Not so here. The use of letters between Layla and her family were a bit copy cat, but still successful. The history of Macedonia as written by Layla, less so.

4. Plot. So much wrong here. At its heart, the main plot point is about an event that took place 18 years prior and its lingering effects for the Romeyn family. Without giving anything away, the secret is not that difficult to discern early on, so the reader is left to wade through the morass it created without any real discovery or enlightenment. It is also brought to light in one scene, that’s it. After almost 20 years buried, you get about 10 pages of dénouement.

5. More plot issues. There was so much information to mine here and I don’t feel as if the author gave us any depth on any of the subjects. This takes place during the Depression with a main character working for the WPA’s Federal Writer’s Project, during prohibition with bootleggers run amuck and a small town’s main industry facing unionization. You would think that a book with that much going on would have been so much more remarkable, but you would be wrong. I was especially intrigued by the WPA project as I had not been aware of this particular aspect of FDR’s plan, but after reading this book, I can’t say I’m any more informed. I realize this would have made for a longer book, I would have heartily endorsed using the previously requested cutting of 150 pages devoted to these subjects.

I won this book through an ARC giveaway which I truly appreciated and I really wanted to love it based on Guernsey, but instead, I was deeply frustrated throughout the reading and felt that I had devoted hours to a story without any sense of fulfillment.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
June 8, 2015
This book is so very much about time and place , that this small town called Macedonia in West Virginia in 1938 , is almost another character . Such a clear sense of place is depicted ! With descriptions like this you can't help but see it :

"Bird and I trudged along Academy Street in silence . I suppose if you'd never seen them before, all the houses on our street looked the same, big and white - brick. If you gazed through the polished lens of experience, though , each one was different. You could tell where the Lloyd boys lived , just from the frayed stump of rope that dangled from their maple tree. The swing had crashed to the ground when all three of them plus Dicky Ritts rode on it at once . Grandpa Puck's porch was bare because he believed that burglars would steal his rocker if he left it out . Every evening , he toted it out to the porch to sit in the cool , but he wouldn't tote Grandma Puck's. She had to sit inside. At the corner was the Caseys' house , empty and sad. Mr Casey got sick and died, and Mrs Casey and the children had to go live with her brother. Sometimes on Sundays, Mrs . Casey came back to water her peonies. It didn't help much ; they were dying."

I was not only taken to this place but fully immersed into the lives of the characters , fully immersed into the time and what was happening not just here but in the country in 1938 . The depression, people losing jobs ,organized labor, bootlegging and locally the secrets held in the Romeyn family . Although a different time and place I had the same feeling of being immersed when I read The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society coauthored by Annie Barrows and the late Mary Ann Shaffer. It was a feeling of being there and knowing the characters.

Layla Beck , the spoiled rich daughter of a Senator is working for the Federal Writer's Project and sent to Macedonia to write a history of the town . While her activities seem to be the focus here , the story is not really about the history of the town . Although interesting in its own right and fun to meet the cast of characters that want their version of history in the book , for me the real story is Willa's right from the start . She's 12 and precocious and sweet and inquisitive and a reader ! She's read Gone With the Wind many times over and reads The Beautiful and the Damned . No way I could not love this young girl .

While there's no major action at least not in the present , the story just seems to flow with only a few parts feeling a bit slow . We learn from the beginning and along the way that there are secrets to be found out about and 12 year old Willa Romeyn is determined to discover everything about her father , Felix . Her Aunt Jottie's point of view is an interesting juxtaposition to Willa's as Aunt Jottie knows only some of the secrets , the history of this town and may not be the truth that Willa discovers. Jottie's flashbacks to childhood days and as young adults sheds light on what may or may not have happened when the sock factory that her father was president of burned and killed the man that Jottie loved . Layla's point of view is divulged in letters and these make for an interesting perspective from an outsider .

This is ultimately a story about truth and lies we tell each other and ourselves , about redemption and forgiveness and leaving childhood behind as Willa points out in the first pages but as I mentioned earlier this was a wonderful and so well written depiction of a specific time and place .

Thanks to Random House Publishing House - Random House and NetGalley.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,221 reviews2,051 followers
August 13, 2015
I really only read this book because I knew the author co wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society but I am very glad I did read it because it is good. I fell in love with many of the characters especially Willa and Jottie and in the end I sat and read way past my bed time because I had to find out what happened to everyone. The ending turned out to be realistic rather than happy ever after but that was okay. This is one of those books which sucks you in with perfect descriptions of the town, the heat and the quirky residents. When it is finished it lingers in your mind.
November 23, 2020
I thought I should revise this review since I wrote it nearly three years ago, when all I could think of to write, at the time, was just how much I loved it. So, yes, I loved this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the wit and humor, and I loved the audio/readers. I also love epistolary novels and much of the story is revealed in letters. Listening to this book was like being dropped right into anytown, in nowheresville, America smack in the midst of the depression, and I could see, hear, feel, and smell the ambience. The deterioration was evident and poverty supplanted the comfort once enjoyed by a town whose main source of jobs and income had gone up in flames when the local sock/stocking factory burned down (I read this so long ago that I might have gotten some of that wrong).

Enter Layla – the willful daughter of a Senator who does not agree to marry her father’s choice of groom. Layla’s refusal to obey her father, angers the Senator and he decides to teach his daughter a lesson in life by sending her off to make a living of her own, setting her up with a job and modest lodging in the once grand home of the Romeyn family in Macedonia, W. Virginia. She is to work for the Writer’s Project under the New Deal Program (c. 1936-1939). Her job will be to write the history of Macedonia and the prominent founding families.

Layla causes quite a stir in this conservative little town, where she does learn a few life lessons. There is a lot of romance to this novel and a climatic coming of age both for Layla and Willa, who narrates much of the story through her 12 year old eyes. Willa’s mother left her and her father when she was a little girl. Her father is somewhat of a snake oil salesman who disappears for long periods, bringing in money from questionable enterprises. Willa lives with her Aunt Jottie in the Romeyn family manor. There are plenty of secrets and lost years of happiness in this book, and there are some thrilling scenes toward the end.

I fell on this book after falling in love with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", read by Juliette Mills, which was an all-time favorite of mine. If Juliette Mills read a telephone book, I would probably give the audio 5 stars just because it was read by JM. I WANTED MORE from this author, Mary Anne Shaffer, but I soon learned that she had passed away before finishing the book (her only book). Shaffer’s niece, Annie Barrows, finished the book for her. Barrows is a prolific writer of popular children’s books (including the beloved Ivy and Bean series), and, lo and behold! I found that in 2015, Barrows wrote The Truth…. And yes, after reading this. I WANTED MORE. I even wrote to Ms. Barrows in September 2019 asking if she planned on writing any more books for adults and she replied that she was working on two manuscripts for grown-up humans. Alas (sigh!), I am still waiting Annie Barrows. Please come back soon.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,336 followers
June 10, 2015
Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars. Annie Barrows wrote the Ivy and Bean books which I read over and over with my daughter when she was younger. And reading The Truth About Us was like reading a version of Ivy and Bean for adults -- which is mostly a positive thing. Barrows tells an excellent story -- a good yarn! Told from the perspective of Leila, Willa and Jottie, the story takes place in 1938 in Macedonia, a small town in West Virginia. Leila comes to Macedonia from Washington to write a history of the town. Her father is a senator who has sent her into the world to work because she won't marry the husband he chose for her. She stays in a house with an assortment of people, including 12 year old Willa and Willa's aunt Jottie, and Willa's charming but unreliable father Felix. While the town folks feed Leila the history of Macedonia they would like to see recorded, Leila comes to see that the town has quite a few interesting secrets and for her part Willa is inspired to learn more about her family's own secrets. Meanwhile, Jottie is trying to untangle herself from all of this historical baggage. The story has lots of good twists and turns, the description of the setting brings West Virginia -- and its relentless hot summers -- to life, and the characters are engaging -- especially Willa who is lovely with her spunk, strong feelings and curiosity and Jottie whose love for her family and pain over an earlier lost love are palpable. A few small caveats. First, the characters other than Willa and Jottie felt a bit unidimensional -- this includes Leila who was a bit of a naive and then enlightened stereotype. And, second, for those who read historical fiction partly to learn something about a time in history, this would be history "lite"; the coming Second World War, the tail end of the depression, and the fear of communism are lurking in the background, but they only form a vague backdrop to the story. And, finally -- back to my comparison with the Ivy and Bean books -- despite the drama and suffering depicted, there's a sweetness to this book that hovers somewhere above real human emotions. Which is fine because it's just a story, and that's how you should approach it to enjoy it on its own terms -- which I did. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,003 reviews413 followers
May 5, 2015
What can I say? This books starts out with it being the summer of 1938.....and boy, did I feel like I was there in thick of that sweltering heat. That's what I loved most about this book: it made me me feel like I was in West Virginia. I could see everyone so plainly. I saw everyone sitting out on their porches, drinking their iced tea, and stopping by saying hello. All the characters were right there in my sight: Jottie, Layla, Willa & Bird, Minerva & Mae....all the secondary characters, they were all so well done, I felt like I knew them.

There were only a couple things I didn't like. Some of the "history" portions that were being typed up by Layla, I didn't think we needed to read those. Some of the stories were funny but I thought what the character actually wrote about them were kinda....eh. Plus, as much as I loved the story, I did feel like it could have ended with about 80 or so pages less.

This isn't a story that's action packed or with a lot of things going on. It has different pov's: 12 year old Willa, her aunt Jottie, & Layla. I could hear their different voices, which I thought was well done. I loved Willa & Jottie the most. I can actually say I liked most of the "cast". Anyway....it's a good story to get lost in. Like I said, I felt very "into" the book. I enjoyed this one for letting me escape to 1938.....I even enjoyed the weather:)

** I received an ARC through a goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,690 reviews451 followers
September 11, 2016
As the title suggests, the characters in this book are delving into secrets to find out the truth--and there may be more than one truth. The narrator is twelve-year-old Willa Romeyn, a likable, precocious girl in the small West Virginian town of Macedonia. She has been eavesdropping on conversations, and sneaking around trying to find out the truth about her father Felix's occupation, family secrets, and life in general.

Another truth-seeker is Layla, a young woman boarding with the Romeyns who is writing a history of Macedonia for the Federal Writers Project, a program that helped unemployed writers and photographers during the Great Depression. She's interviewing the townspeople where she gets both the official version of history, and the colorful stories that will make a better book. Layla's letters to her friends and family about her experiences are lively and fun.

The Romeyn household is run by Jottie, Felix's sister, who is a delightful maternal woman. The man she loved died in a mill fire in 1920--and finding the truth behind the tragedy helps drive the plot. Felix Romeyn is a charming womanizer who mysteriously comes and goes with his job.

Author Annie Barrows makes us feel that we are in 1938 West Virginia, and the sense of time and place is a strength of the book. Mill workers are being laid off during the hard times of the Depression, and the men want to unionize. Although Prohibition is the law, even young Willa starts learning the truth about bootleggers. It shows small town life with its warmth and its sniping.

The book gets off to a slow start, but gets more entertaining, so be patient. The story has a large number of characters, some of whom have little bearing on the plot. The novel has a lot going on--plot elements set in both 1920 and 1938, Layla's letters, and excerpts from Layla's book about Macedonia. Some of the secrets of 1920 continue to haunt the Romeyn family in 1938. So if you're up for a heartwarming, but slow-moving, Southern family story, then this is the book for you. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
June 11, 2015
It's summer time, hot, and you want to lay out on a hammock, sip a lemonade and read a good book. This is a great one to do that. Written by the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society it takes place in the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, during the Great Depression.

Layla Beck is the spoiled daughter of an U.S. Senator who one rebels by refusing to marry the man selected for her to marry. Sen. Beck is so enraged that he cuts her off without a dime and signs her up in the WPA/Federal Writers' Project run conveniently by his brother. Layla is assigned to write a history of Macedonia to honor its sesquicentennial (150 years).

We hear much of Layla's stories in letter she writes to family and friends. Grumbling all the way, she moves into the home of Jottie Romeyn and what a house it is. Living with Jottie is her brother, Felix (a travelling salesman), and his 2 daughters, 12 year old Willa and 6 year old Bird. Jottie raises the girls as Felix is gone quite a bit. Also residing in the house are Jottie's twin sisters Minerva and Mae. They go live with their husbands on the week-ends but can't be separated any longer than that. It's a brand new world for Layla.

The Romeyn's father used to run the mill, and main employer, in town. There was a fire and a close friend of Jottie and Felix's was killed supposedly while robbing the mill. As Layla writes the town history she starts to uncover the mystery of the fire and also very funny anecdotes about the town. The story of a Confederate General hiding in a house of ill repute is a hoot.

Ultimately the story is a coming of age novel for Willa Romeyn and the power of forgiveness. It's a wonderful book that will keep you turning pages. It's a great story.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,491 reviews9 followers
August 30, 2015
3.5 stars. A charming and quaint story with memorable characters set during the depression.

It's a dripping hot summer in 1938 and Layla Beck is being punished by her father, a Senator, for not agreeing to marry the boring chap he has chosen for her. The punishment is a job with the WPA writing a history of a small Virginia town, celebrating its sesquicentenial. This lands Layla in a prominent household of the communty as a boarder, and soon she has set the family on its ear, striking up a relationship of sorts with the father, a divorced man of questionable means and motives, making his 12-year-old daughter, Willa, quite jealous and protective of him.

The writing of the history means interviewing lots of local folk since there is nothing already written about the town to guide her. Also revealed in bits and pieces is the story of the Romeyn family and its many secrets. It follows that the reader begins to see two or more sides to all the tales revealed, and you wonder where the truths lie, until the big reveal.

ARC from NetGalley and I also listened to the audio at the same time.
Profile Image for Ashley.
180 reviews15 followers
February 24, 2016
This was well on its way to being a 5-star review - right up until the very end. I loved the way Annie Barrows described the fictional town of Macedonia, West Virginia. She made me feel like I was living in Small Town, USA during 1938. The story was told from the perspective of three females - Layla Beck, the daughter of a senator who was sent to Macedonia to write its history after she refused to marry the man of her father's choosing; Jottie Romeyn, the owner of the home where Layla boarded while in Macedonia and Willa Romeyn, the eldest daughter of Jottie's eldest brother. This is a coming of age book for Willa and a book about how truth sometimes depends on whose eyes you are looking through.

I fell in love with the characters of this book and really cared about what happened to them. Don't you just love books like that?
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,765 followers
March 27, 2015
I love books that take place in small towns, and with Layla being somewhat banished there to write the history of Macedonia. WV, lots of secrets come to light. Layla was a spoiled rich girl and she is quite unhappy when her father forces here to join the Federal Writers Project and she has to live with a family much different than what she is used to. It is a learning experience for all involved.

What made this story unique was the exploration of the small town dynamics of course but also I learned about the WPA and the Writing/History project which I knew nothing about. The Romeyns are a family rich in history and secrets. This book also confirms for me the fact that books can help sustain people and encourage them during hard times.

I would definitely recommend this book and think it will be a great book club book with lots of interesting characters to discuss along with the history of this example of a small town in West Virginia.
Profile Image for Sharon Siepel.
Author 3 books8 followers
March 31, 2015
How can I even begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this book? The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows unravels the secrets of a small Depression-era West Virginia town through the eyes of 12 year old Willa and Layla, a young woman assigned by Roosevelt's Writer Project to research and write the history of town in time for its 150th birthday.

Though the book mainly focuses on one family in particular, readers are introduced to many citizens of Macedonia, all with the quirks, agendas, and stories of their own.

For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Barrow's does occasionally use letters as a means of communicating different character's perspectives. However, the book does not rely as heavily on these letters as Potato Peel Pie did.

I was drawn in from the beginning and had a very hard time putting down this nearly 500 page book. All the characters are so engaging that you feel like you are rocking on the front porch, drinking ice tea with sweat trickling down your back while eavesdropping on their conversations.

Perfect novel for book clubs, as there are many aspects of the book that are worth discussing: the characters, family relationships, what loyalty looks like, how history is remembered and recorded, the Depression, the Federal's Writers Project, etc.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,464 reviews42 followers
May 22, 2015
Let's get this right out in the open - this is NOT another Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The primary author of that book club favorite was ailing when she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish it. The Truth According to Us, although it is partially epistolary, is a very different read with a much more bittersweet tone.

The novel uses several different POVs to tell the Depression-era story of Layla Beck, a spoiled socialite whose father cuts her off when she refuses to marry his hand-picked choice. As punishment, her uncle puts her on the New Deal Federal Writers Project, and exiles her to Macedonia, West Virginia to write the town's history for its sesquicentennial celebration. She is to board with the notorious Romeyn family, including handsome, mysterious Felix, his two young daughters Willa and Bird, and his spinster sister Jottie. Once the Romeyn family ran the biggest factory in Macedonia, but now Felix is rumored to be a bootlegger - or worse - and Jottie barely interacts with the other townspeople.

Layla is determined to prove that she can actually do a good job, but Macedonia's history is full of secrets and lies - much like the Romeyn family history. Twelve year old Willa is determined to use the Macedonian virtues of ferocity and devotion to learn the truth about her family. But neither Layla nor Willa realize that disturbing the past could have a devastating impact on their present.

The Truth According to Us portrays a fascinating genuine piece of American history - the thought of a federal government paying people to create art, (not science and technology!) should make humanities majors everywhere green with envy. And the disparities between Macedonia's history recounted by its "first families" and the less than honorable facts known to a few residents are eye opening and frequently humorous.

But the relationships are the strongest part of the novel as Jottie tries to move past grief and anger, Willa tries to keep her father from abandoning the family, and Layla tries to prove her worth. The three women don't always have comfortable relationships, and they don't all get what they want, but by book's end they are stronger than they were and ready to move ahead.

I'm a major epistolary novel fan, but I have to admit that the sections of the novel that include letters to, from and about Layla were not my favorite part, especially given that there are other sections that are written from Layla's POV. I wonder if Barrows felt the letters were necessary to catch the attention of Guernsey Society fans. She needn't have bothered. The story stands strong without them.

No, it's not the second coming of your book club favorite, but it's a strong, impressive novel in its own right.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,603 reviews2,575 followers
June 10, 2015
(3.5) They say there are only two basic plots: a stranger comes to town, or the hero sets off on a journey. Well, here’s the first of those in action. This atmospheric historical novel is set in the sweltering summer of 1938. Layla Beck, a spoiled senator’s daughter, has been sent to Macedonia, West Virginia by the WPA to document the town’s story in advance of its sesquicentennial. Her uncle pulls strings to get her the job even though he thinks his flighty niece is “exactly as fit to work on the project as a chicken is to drive a Buick.”

From a lunatic Civil War general onwards, Macedonia has certainly had a colorful history. The problem is that all the local lights want to skew history to present themselves in the most favorable light. This applies to the family Layla boards with as well, the Romeyns. Felix and Jottie’s father ran the American Everlasting Hosiery Company until a devastating fire some 20 years ago – blamed on Jottie’s old sweetheart, Vause Hamilton.

Now Felix’s twelve-year-old daughter Willa, who narrates much of the novel, wants to get to the bottom of things. What really happened during that factory fire? Why are the Romeyns snubbed around town? Has her divorcé father turned to bootlegging, and can she stop Miss Beck from bewitching him? Like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird or Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley’s mysteries, Willa is a spunky heroine whose curiosity carries the plot.

Once again Barrows makes good use of the epistolary format by inserting the letters Layla sends and receives during her time in Macedonia. Third person narration also gets us into the mind of Jottie, one of the strongest characters. However, later sections of the novel get a little bogged down in Jottie’s romantic history, and overall it is too long by at least a quarter. Barrows is better at capturing everyday speech and routines than momentous activities like a factory strike, but she certainly evokes the oppressive heat of a long American summer.

As Willa concludes, “The truth of other people is a ceaseless business. You try to fix your ideas about them, and you choke on the clot you’ve made.” This novel reminds us that others – whether strangers or family – are always a mystery, and history is a matter of interpretation.

(Originally published with images at my blog, Bookish Beck.)
Profile Image for Christina.
217 reviews24 followers
May 11, 2023
I LOVED this one. It's an epic family saga without actually being an epic family saga.

After she refuses to marry, Senator Beck decides that his daughter Layla needs to learn a hard lesson. He cuts off her funding and insists that she support herself. It's 1938 and there is a depression, but thankfully through her uncle she is able to land a relief job as a writer for the Federal Writers Project.

What she assumed would be a desk job turns out to be field work; contracting her to write the history of the rural town of Macedonia, WV.

She boards with the Romeyn family in Macedonia and finds that the town, the people and life are much different than the high class DC life that she's accustomed to.

Quickly learning that she must start from a blank slate because there is no previously written history of the area, Layla is determined to prove herself and to do the towns history justice. She talks to the whole cast of characters who inhabit the town, each with their own version of the true story. Of course the stories conflict and it's up to her as the first historian to find the truth.

While Layla digs into the towns legends 12 year old Willa Romeyn is trying to solve more current mysteries, including what's behind her father's "chemical sales" business is about and why her Aunt Jottie (who's her mother figure) never got married. Willa is also suspicious of Layla and her intentions (especially with her father).

As these two characters dive deeper into their mysteries, truths are uncovered that change the lives of everyone involved.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,338 reviews696 followers
August 8, 2015
Recommend, recommend, recommend. Need I say more? This is a warm and comforting Southern novel that takes place in West Virginia (I LOVE Southern novels); this is a fabulous historical fiction novel that takes place during the great depression focusing on Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. This is a family drama of an eccentric Southern family with secrets, sadness, betrayal, and forgiveness. Oh, and it has a glorious twelve year old character who you can’t help but adore.

The characters are amazing. Willa, the 12 year-old who is coming of age, wants to know everything, and isn’t beyond snooping. Layla, a spoiled daughter of a privileged family in Washington DC, who refuses to be “married-off” and thus becomes banished to West Virginia without a generous allowance and demanded to WORK! Yikes!! Jottie the reserved and clever aunt of Willa who is raising her two nieces in the face of familial financial and social decline; and Felix, the father of Willa, brother of Jottie, who is mysterious and smarmy, but to whom Willa and Jottie are hopelessly devoted. The cast of sub characters is the quirky type that can only occur in Southern lit. Did I mention I love great Southern Lit??

Anne Barrows did her research with regard to West Virginia in the mid 1930’s. Great research supports awesome characters to provide a great story-line. I had never heard of the Federal Writers’ Project. Also, it’s a joy to read a period-piece that has been researched for authenticity.

The story is told from Willa, Layla, and Jottie’s prospective. Layla becomes a boarder at Layla and Jottie’s home where she is to write the history of the town. Layla learns how to work. Willa learns secrets she is sorry to learn. And Jottie finds herself and becomes whole again. My favorite quote: “I’ve learned that history is the autobiography of the historian, that ignoring the past is the act of a fool, and that loyalty does not mean falling into line, but stepping out of it for the people you love.”

If you love Southern Lit, this is a must read. If you love historical fiction, again, a must read. And if you need another book to open yourself up to the concept of forgiveness, this is it. It’s a warm and comfy summer read.

Profile Image for Ann-Marie "Cookie M.".
1,109 reviews121 followers
May 23, 2019
I didn't expect much of this novel. I carried around a sample of it on my Kindle for over a year, and it was stuck on a very misleading page. It gave me the impression the whole book was about socialites being selfish during the depression.
Not at all! There is a socialite. She is rather selfish, but she is a product of her upbringing, and when she looks around at her world she decides she is not going to play by their rules anymore.
All right, they say, try another world, and her family packs her off to a small town in West Virginia to take part in a public works project, figuring she will come to her senses.
Instead, she runs into the one family in that small town just screwy enough to teach her a whole new way of living, and in return, she keeps them from imploding.

Oh, such a good story. It makes me long to break out my knitting and sit out on the front porch with a glass of something cool, maybe with a li'l splash of something from the local bootlegger. Yeah, he's in the story, too.
Profile Image for Susan - on semi hiatus.
414 reviews112 followers
April 18, 2020
Sweltering West Virginia Summer 1938

I would have passed this by if it hadn’t been for Tamar's enthusiastic recommendation. I’m thankful because I really loved this book for so many reasons.

Based on the premise, I had the impression that the book centered around Layla and her government sponsored position for the Writers Project.

She’s the spark starting the fire, but she’s one of three narrators, with the others being Willa, a rapidly maturing twelve year old, and her caregiver aunt Jottie.

With Layla writing the town’s history, she’s given an outline of prominent places and people to interview by the town council. When Willa is informed that her family has been omitted, she vows to find out why…

The book isn't on a fast track but the meandering pace fits the small town vibe. It's also longer than most but anything less would have seemed inauthentic.

I have a personal interest in the time period because it coincides with some of my relatives' stories. Reading about the era in which they lived brings them closer when they’re no longer with me.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,020 reviews1,961 followers
May 3, 2015
I adored The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And though Annie Barrows really only helped finish that book for her aunt, that was 99% of why I snatched up this ARC. (Also, I love books that take place in West Virginia, as it's kind of my secondary home state)

This is about Layla, a privileged young woman whose independent streak has resulted in being cut off by her well-to-do family in the depths of the Depression. She ends up assigned to work on the Federal Writer's Project in Macedonia, a fictional town in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, boarding with the Romeyn family, whose glory days are fading into the past. The patriarch once ran the stocking factory in town, but now his son Felix is a divorced chemical salesman with two daughters (Willa and Bird). Felix's sister Jottie runs the household and provides most of the care for the girls. Felix and Jottie's married twin sisters still live there during the week, spending time with their respective husbands only occasionally.

Layla is meant to write a history of the town for their upcoming sesquicentennial, but she finds herself surrounded by family secrets, love triangles, and labor disputes. Barrows writes the story using a myriad narrative tools: first-person perspective from Willa's point of view, letters that Layla writes home to DC, passages from Layla's book, a third person perspective focusing on Jottie, and flashbacks to Jottie and Felix's youth.

For the most part, I think, the complicated narrative structure worked. It wasn't too hard to keep straight what was going on, though Barrows did change from first-person narrative to third-person sometimes mid-paragraph. But I do think the book would have been strengthened by a little more focus. Willa was such a precocious little girl, a Depression-era Harriet the Spy who wants to uncover all the adults' secrets, and Jottie was such a fiery woman who wanted to protect her family. But Layla was kind of dull and I wasn't very interested in her life or her budding romance. She sometimes felt like a narrative device whose presence in the story was the only way to gradually reveal the town's secrets as opposed to actually contributing to the story.

But my real complaint with the book was that I never felt like anything was at stake. There were so many different threads here: possible unionization at the factory, bootlegging, the Depression, the main secret of what happened to Jottie's childhood love, a love triangle centered on Layla, a potential love interest for Jottie that's stunted by her sense of obligation to Felix, Layla's desire to make her book less about the party line and more about the truth. Maybe it's because there was too much going on, but I didn't feel the tension in any of these storylines. It was kind of easy to see where most of them were heading and I didn't find myself concerned about what would happen when we got there.

There was so much potential in this story. I mean, The Truth According to Us is a fantastic title and an opportunity to explore so much about the stories we tell versus the realities we've lived. Ultimately, though, this one just kind of fell flat for me. Okay, but not great.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,105 reviews92 followers
July 26, 2015
Welcome to Macedonia, West Virginia in the late 1930's. The Depression has taken its tole, and the people are suffering. The Romeyns were once a prominent and beloved family, but now take in boarders. Their new boarder is Layla Beck, daughter of a Senator, who's been exiled due to her refusal to marry a wealthy suitor. She lands a job with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to write the town history of Macedonia. The Romeyns once ran the textile mill, but due to tragic circumstances are no longer in charge. The Romeyn household is made up of Jottie, Mae and Minerva (twin sisters), Felix and his daughters, Willa and Bird. Jottie is the glue that holds the family together. Told through the voices of Jottie, Willa and Layla, the secrets of the Romeyn family are slowly revealed. Willa is determined to know her father, and discover the truths of the past. What is the mystery that surrounds the fire at the mill? Everyone, including Layla, is drawn into the world of the ever charming Felix. Interspersed into the story are letters and snippets of the book Layla is writing on Macedonia's history.
A wonderful story of Willa's coming of age and the strengths and character of Jottie and Layla.
4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books102 followers
June 27, 2015
[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This was a strange read, one that I both liked, but less than I had hoped and expected. To be honest, I found the book a wee bit too long. Somehow, it felt like it could've been tightened, and although the last chapters, after the "reveal", were needed, they still seemed to drag a little.

The style here mixes present tense first person narrative, past tense third person narrative, and excerpts from letters. I liked the tone of those, especially Layla's, as they were witty, and at the same time revealed her lack of experience in other circumstances than those she had grown up in. I'm not sure what to make of the past/present/POV choice—as usual. I've seen this technique used more and more in the past few years, and I can never tell if it's a good idea or if it irks me. Both, I suppose. Here, I was more bothered when the third person narrative jumped from one character to another within the span of a couple of paragraphs.

Macedonia had the charms of a little town in summer, with its quirky people, its own unspoken rules, its skeletons in the closet, whether in the past (the soldiers who spend the night in the house of a lady... of the evening, or the general who was actually crazy enough to shoot his own son) or in the present (what happened to Vause, Felix's actual occupation). I found myself wanting to discover more about its history as seen through the eyes of its inhabitants.

Layla didn't strike me as particularly interesting, yet turned out better than I thought, at least, proving to others (and to herself) that she could be more than a future trophy wife, and that she wasn't so stupid—only sheltered. While she didn't approach her task as a historian in the most objective manner, which is impossible anyway as history is never objective, she still did it with the intent of writing about Macedonia's past in an interesting way. What I didn't like was the emotional part of her involvement when it came to a specific character, as it was so painfully obvious that she was being played... and after that, unfortunately, she kind of fell flat.

Other characters I found annoying on a regular basis, and it seemed that mostly nobody knew what they really wanted. Not unexpected (*I* don't know what I want in life, after all!), but annoying after a while. I still don't know if everybody was completely selfish reflections of how bleak human nature is, stupid, full of love, lying to themselves, hiding their inner pain, wanting only what others had... All of that, I guess? On the one hand, it was interesting, showing that the "idyllic little southern town" was all but. On the other hand, characters like Jottie constantly made me think "can't you be happy with one choice in your life, for a change?" (Basically, she denied herself for 18 years, then when she finally chose for herself, it was "too easy", thus worthless. I wouldn't call 18 years "too easy", but maybe that's just me.)

I would have liked to see more events unfold from Willa's point of view. She had both a ruthless and childish take on things, which fitted her 12-year-old self, balancing between carefree childhood and wanting the grown-ups to see her as an equal, someone they'd confide into. As they obviously wouldn't, she tried to discover things by herself—and got more than her money's worth in that regard. I didn't really like how she reacted in the end, as it made her part of the narrative less involved.

Conclusion: Interesting background (Macedonia, the WPA, the strike), but not so interesting for me when it came to the characters, who were a little too predictable and also annoying. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Melissa Rochelle.
1,238 reviews144 followers
April 6, 2015
I like stories set in small-towns. I like historical fiction. I like family secrets. I like books that use letters (or other documents) to tell a story.

I should have devoured this book and demanded more at the end, but no. I liked it, but I really wanted to love it.

3.5 stars

It's summer 1938 in Macedonia, West Virginia. Willa Romeyn lives with her smart Aunt Jottie, quirky twin Aunts Mae and Minerva, her little sister Bird, and her there-one-minute-gone-the-next father Felix. She's an excellent spy and an avid reader -- part of the book is told from Willa's 1st person POV. At the beginning of the summer, Layla Beck -- daughter of a Senator -- is exiled to Macedonia as part of her (new) job with the Writers' Project. That's what happens when you defy your powerful father.... Parts of the story unfold through Layla's letters and the history she is writing of the town. Then there's the 3rd person POV about Jottie. Willa wants to know Layla's secrets. Jottie wants to be more independent. Layla wants to prove her father wrong.

The different POVs didn't work well for me. There's a lot going on in this little town, but more focus would've been nice. By the time I got to the end, I felt like most of the story could have just been told by Willa and Jottie. Layla seemed like extra fluff and I found myself skimming her letters.

A good read, but not great. Definitely has lots of potential for good book group discussions.
Profile Image for Lynn G..
292 reviews7 followers
August 20, 2015
I really enjoyed this story, especially the different versions of 'truth' proffered by the different characters. Willa, the narrator, concludes in the epilogue: "The truth of other people is a ceaseless business. You try to fix your ideas about them, and you choke on the clot you've made."

In a small way The Truth According to Us reminds me of the Japanese Rashomon tale that explores four different characters' testimonies of the same event; they collide and diverge depending on each character's motivation and perspective.

Willa is slightly reminiscent of Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, although Willa's perspective is that of an older girl, she is 12 to Scout's six. Both are motherless, but for very different reasons; both fathers are in the picture but with decidedly different impacts on their daughters; both girls want to know the 'why' of life---the truth.

This is a very good book with strong and interesting characters, particularly the women. The time period (primarily the late Depression in the U.S.) and the setting (the eastern panhandle of West Virginia) were excellent backdrops for the story. There were plot twists and small revelations that kept me turning page after page.
Profile Image for Fictionophile .
1,027 reviews331 followers
May 6, 2017
Several years ago I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I enjoyed it so much that I felt sure I would enjoy a novel by one of its authors, and I chose to read this novel on the strength of that. I was right!

"The truth according to us" is set in the fictional mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia in 1938. The characters are richly drawn and the book's pace is as slow as the sultry summer in which the story unfolds.

The town, situated on the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, has been in existence for 150 years. To celebrate this important anniversary, they have agreed to have a small book or booklet written detailing "a dignified yet lively recounting" of the town's history. Don't forget it is the height of the depression - a time when the men of the town, those who don't work at the mill, are out of work, are often "waiting for nothing around a stairwell".

Layla Beck, as the daughter of a wealthy senator is a young woman of privileged background. When she refused to marry the man of her father's choice, he cut off the allowance of his spoiled and frivolous daughter. Thus it is that Layla is banished from Washington, D.C. and is commissioned to write the town's history as part of the Federal Writer's Project. She is to be a boarder in the home of the Romeyns.

Upon arriving in Macedonia, Layla soon learns that the history she is to write has been dictated by the town's 'families of influence'. Namely she is to write of their families histories and give a glorified version of the town's historical events.

"the town council prefers to pretend that it has no Negro population, so Layla won't be required to record their history."

Layla feels it is her duty to the citizens to make the true history of Macedonia known. When she becomes interested in writing a more accurate picture of the town she is admonished "There is a fine line between history and gossip".

The Romeyn's were once a respectable family in Macedonia, but events have transpired that their respectability has faded like the paint on their house. Their household is comprised of Willa and her younger sister, Bird, her father's sisters Jottie, and the twin aunts Mae and Minerva, and of course, her father Felix when he is not away traveling... Their late father had once ran the mill, so they had status within the community at that time.

The American Everlasting Hosiery Company employs around one thousand men, at a time when so many are unemployed. They had to sign an employment agreement that they would never unionize... Back in 1920 the mill burned, changing the history of the town, and the Romeyn family forever.

Layla Beck has lovely clothes and refined manners and the twins Mae and Minerva are quite jealous.
"Minerva and Mae exchanged smug glances, the girl's discomfort adding some minor honey to the uniform sourness of their grapes."

Willa is a precocious and very intelligent girl of twelve years. She is a voracious reader and has read almost everything the small town library has to offer. Her character reminded me somewhat of the talkative Anne, of "Anne of Green Gables" fame. It is when Layla Beck comes to live in their house that Willa decides that she is tired of being treated as a child. She wants to be privy to the secrets that the adults in her life hold. She becomes quite concerned when Layla Beck shows an undue interest in her father, Felix.

"If you're going to unearth hidden truths, keen observing is your shovel"

I loved many of the characters in this novel, but my favorite was probably Jottie. A woman in her late thirties, Jottie had known and lost love, and now was considered an 'old maid'. She gave up on her dream of going to college to stay home and care for her parents. Now she keeps the Romeyn family home and acts as surrogate mother to Willa and Bird. She wants a bigger life, but has come to understand that her wishes will never be realized. She doesn't let her bitterness show. Her love for Willa is fierce and protective, and despite the fact that she disagrees with Felix's life style, she is loyal to her brother in return for a perceived past debt.

"Ladies don't smoke in public, Jottie said. In public included a lot of places, even our front room because of all the windows, so Jottie smoked like a stack in the kitchen."

Willa was enchanting. While trying to decipher the mysterious adult world, she relates: "I tried to look innocent but not idiotic, which is uphill work". She has a book in her hands at all times and laments that she cannot read and walk at the same time successfully. She has read "Jane Eyre" three times. She is wise beyond her years.

This is a slow paced novel of a family sewn together with loyalty, yet encumbered by all the tragedy, shame, and secrecy that could rend them apart at a moment's notice. It is a story that expounds on the theory that no one can be entirely objective and that "all history is suspect".

"Loyalty does not mean falling into line,
but stepping out of it for the ones you love."

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, though I found it to be overly long. It could have done without some of the peripheral character's stories and still told the tale just as well. The language was marvelous, so if you are into beautiful prose, you'll find it fantastic. If you want to be transported to a small town with some captivating characters, then this novel is for you!

Layla Beck wants to be a part of the Romeyn family - after reading this novel you will too.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Doubleday (Random House UK, Transworld Publishers) via NetGalley in consideration of an honest review.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,027 reviews58.9k followers
July 8, 2015
The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows in a 2015 Dial Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This absorbing novel tells the story of the Romeyn family set in Macedonia, West Virginia in the late 1930's.
The story unfolds as a young woman named Layla travels to the small town in order to write Macedonia's history as a part of the Roosevelt Writer Project.

The Romeyn family was like royalty in the small town once upon a time, but the years have not been kind to them. Now Jottie, her brother Felix and his two daughters, Willa and Bird welcome Layla into their home as a boarder.

The story begins with Layla's acerbic, sarcastic and often humorous letters to family and friends she hopes will come to her aide and provide her a way out of the situation she has found herself in.

Layla is on relief and having to work a real job for the first time in her life, all because, as the daughter of a prominent senator, she has refused to marry the man her father wants her to. So, she is cast out and left to either sink or swim. So, swim it is.

But, her arrival will stir up a hornets nest when Felix decides he would like to get to know her better. If that weren't enough, Willa has begun to question a few things about her family, prompting her to snoop and spy on her father. But, she never would have guessed that a discovery made by chance will unearth years of torment, grief, pain, and guilt, as a terrible dark secret surfaces that will change the course of their lives forever.

As I turned the last page in this book, I had mixed emotions about how things turned out. There are only three characters in the book I liked. Layla, Willa, and Emmett. After all was said and done, I was disappointed in Jottie, still didn't like Felix and felt sorry for Sol, no matter what his motives might have been.

The town's history is being outlined through Layla's writing and while it's not necessarily the main focus it was quite interesting as the past is woven into “present day” events.

The puzzling part of the story for me was the unnatural relationship between Jottie and Felix. The brother and sister bond was unhealthy, in my opinion, and since they both left me feeling put out and frustrated, I decided they deserved each other.

The most promising character overall was Layla, because she is the only one who owned up to her mistakes, who took responsibility for her actions, and learned from it. She goes from being a spoiled, pampered debutante, to being a woman full of depth and compassion, and real maturity.

Willa, too, as precocious twelve year old, has more insight than most of the adults in the story. Her inadvertent discovery will be the catalyst to exposing a secret that has been tearing at her family for years. She will bring to her father and aunt a peace they never would have had otherwise. Willa comes the closest to unconditional love as is possible, by defending and loving her family, warts and all.

So, ultimately this story is about family and the bonds that, despite spectacular betrayals and lies, are unshakable, and forgiveness is the balm that soothes the pain and torture of loss and guilt.

The story is well written and the characters are expertly drawn, many whom lingered in my mind well into the night, hours after I had finished the book. I was conflicted by how some characters ended up and uplifted and proud by the growth others displayed. Overall this is a thought provoking story and a compelling read.

4 stars
Profile Image for Clarabel.
3,201 reviews24 followers
September 16, 2016
Ce roman, très attendu depuis que j'avais été enchantée par Le cercle littéraire des amateurs d'épluchures de patates, co-écrit par Annie Barrows et sa tante Mary Ann Shaffer, ne lui arrive sans doute pas à la cheville, mais offre malgré tout un instant de lecture absolument réjouissant. L'histoire nous balade gentiment, au cours des 600 pages, à travers les rues de Macedonia et en compagnie d'une brochette de personnages attachants, qui se plaisent à colporter toutes sortes de fables et dressent ainsi un tableau de la ville particulièrement cocasse.

On se sent vite comme un coq en pâte, pas mécontent de notre visite. À côté de ça, le secret de la famille Romeyn nous taraude. Et c'est grâce à la curiosité insatiable de la jeune Willa, douze ans, que certains mystères du passé vont se lever. Pourquoi Jottie se refuse d'aimer à nouveau ? que fabrique Félix dès lors qu'il s'échappe de la maison pour revenir les poches pleines d'argent ? quels mensonges Vause Hamilton a-t-il emporté dans sa tombe ? qu'est-ce qui a pu briser leur amitié avec Sol McKubin ?

Même si le rythme est lent et le roman copieux, la lecture ne m'a inspiré aucun ennui. J'ai été charmée par l'ambiance, captivée du début à la fin. J'avais l'impression de décrocher avec la réalité qui m'entourait pour voyager dans un décor dépaysant mais chaleureux. Cela m'a beaucoup plu. Les histoires de famille et les petites villes américaines n'ont pas fini d'exercer leur attrait sur moi !

Profile Image for Jamise.
Author 2 books154 followers
July 12, 2015
I could not wait for this book to end. While I love Annie Barrows writing style this book was about 150 pages too long. What Barrows gets right is the ability to make the reader feel like they are imbedded in the story. You feel the hot suffocating weather, taste the cool ice cream on a summer day and see the fireflies at night. Set in 1930's West Virginia, I enjoyed the characters, the Romeyn family dynamic and the intriguing storyline of the town history being unearthed by a high society debutante from Washington DC working for the Federal Writer's Project. 3.5 stars. | "I've learned that history is the autobiography of the historian, that ignoring the past is the act of a fool, and loyalty does not mean falling into line, but stepping out of it for the people you love." - Layla Beck
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