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The Things We Wish Were True

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In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

288 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2016

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About the author

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

18 books836 followers
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of When We Were Worthy, The Things We Wish Were True and five previous novels. She speaks to women's groups around the US. She is the co-founder of the popular women's fiction site, She Reads www.shereads.org. Marybeth and her husband Curt have been married for 26 years and are the parents of six children. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel. You can find her at www.marybethwhalen.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,602 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,443 reviews78.1k followers
March 8, 2017
I believe I've found another trustworthy publisher in Lake Union; I particularly seem to gravitate toward their women's fiction releases since they tend to be a reliable pick for my interests. I have loved the past 5 reads from them and am excited to read the last few I have sitting on my shelf. These books aren't as romance focused as others; sure there are typically romantic relationships, but it's only a portion of the plot instead of the main event. Once again, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen has delivered an intriguing, complex novel that causes the reader to question how well they know the people who live mere feet from them and what secrets we all hold in the dark corners of our lives. This was one suspenseful read that kept me guessing as I took in the story from quite a few POVs, which seemed confusing at first, but slowly came together to weave a connected web of personal experiences and tragedies.

I'll admit that this was a fairly short read, which came out to under 300 pages (at least my review copy did) and is probably my only critique. I was so sucked in that I just wanted more! I absolutely fell deep into the drama of these folks like I lived right alongside in Sycamore Glen; I thoroughly loved how this didn't feel "hick small-town" but more suburban and classic southern. The descriptions, the cover, the setting were all perfectly southern and me being a southern girl, I whole-heartedly embraced this. I had the same feelings and emotions reading this one as I did reading Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale. While the plots are completely different, I feel those who really liked that book might enjoy this as well!

The characters were really fun to get acquainted with; my personal favorite tangent was the budding relationship between Jencey and Lance. The author included a note at the end of the book giving us background into the inspiration to where this particular story came from; I found that to be a nice touch that deepened my appreciation for the book and Marybeth's storytelling abilities. Once again, this was a fantastic, quick read that has you blowing through each clipped chapter at lightning speed trying to uncover all the little mysteries alongside the big, central one. While at times a little predictable, I felt the suspense of the story more than made up for those tiny moments. This book is still more than enjoyable even if you figure out every single piece of the puzzle ahead of time.

* I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing and Marybeth Whalen!
Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,221 followers
August 11, 2017
'The Things We Wish Were True' was a book that I picked up with my Kindle Unlimited membership. I listened to the Audible edition and it was better than I expected. This story had a lot going on, but the author managed to weave the characters and events together seamlessly. It was my first Marybeth Mayhew Whalen book, but it won't be my last.

The story is set in the small, southern town of Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. I enjoyed the description of this town and thought that the author did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of a small southern town. So often, authors are guilty of only portraying southern towns as being filled with idiotic, racist rednecks, feeding into all of the worst stereotypes of the people in this region of the country.

As a Mississippi native, I appreciate that this author didn't do that, taking the time to present a more balanced view. There are certainly some racist rednecks in the South, but they aren't a good representation of the majority. Having lived in, and traveled to, various locales across the country, I can assure you that racist, ignorant rednecks are everywhere. Sad, but true.

The story is told from multiple POVs. Everyone seems to get a chance to share their version of events. With a robust cast of characters, I admit that this was a little confusing at first. However, it wasn't long before I had all of the characters sorted and I was completely lost in the goings on of this small community.

This is the type of town where everyone is connected somehow. Maybe their grown kids went to school with the young parents that are now raising their own families in town, as was the case for Zell. Maybe they've returned to town to lick their wounds, returning to the safety of their parents' home after a failed marriage, as Jancey did. Perhaps, like Lance, they're struggling to raise their children alone after being abandoned by their spouse. Or, maybe they're trying to grow their family while working hard to keep their secrets at bay, like Everett and Bryte.

Everyone has a story and their lives are interconnected. Some connections are obvious, while others are revealed slowly, over the course of the book. The tragic near-drowning of a child at the community pool will pull them all together and set a series of events in motion.

Despite being a relatively short book, there was a lot going on. A child abductor is in their midst. Lies, betrayals and secrets abound. However, the author manages to incorporate many different elements without the story feeling "over the top" or outrageous. Granted, some things were a bit too coincidental, but it worked overall.

All in all, this was a great story. I really enjoyed it and found myself lost in the small town drama that played out. If you're looking for an entertaining read that has a little mystery, without a high level of suspense and anxiety, I think this is a good choice.

Check out more of my reviews at www.bookaddicthaven.com.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews672 followers
August 20, 2016
A spider's intricately spun web blocks the entrance to the neighborhood swimming pool on opening day, a portent of some sticky situations in store for the residents of Sycamore Glen. There isn't a person in the group who doesn't have a secret. And yes, those secrets will all be laid bare before summer's end.

I didn't really get the sense of a small town with this one. It had more of a cozy neighborhood feel about it. Best friends trying to reconnect, saying too much, sharing too little. Would recommend to readers who prefer their novels on the lighthearted side. Likeable characters, very readable. The kids weren't even annoying. Eh, moving on to something more to my taste, something dark, unsettling, disturbing.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
September 14, 2016
"And yet, Jencey understood, there were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.

Sycamore Glen, North Carolina is one of those small towns. You know, the ones where everyone knows everyone's business, where people remain entangled in each other's lives from childhood on, where secrets are hidden just out of sight. Bryte grew up in Sycamore Glen, pining for the boy her best friend dated, wanting a love and life to call her own, and years later, she has everything she wanted. But behind her happiness lies a secret, and the pressure to hide it may cause her to risk everything she holds dear.

It seemed that Jencey had everything she could want while growing up in Sycamore Glen. Yet one day she left without warning, without explanation, leaving those who loved and cared about her feeling angry, hurt, and betrayed, and forced to rebuild their lives without her. Years later she returns after her life is upended, and her reappearance causes fears to be reawakened, and ripples into other people's lives.

Zell is the neighborhood helper, always the one to bring food to a family dealing with a tragedy, lend support when it is needed, quietly observe what is going on around her. Yet she has her own secrets, things she hopes never come to light despite the fact that they might help someone else. And there is still things she isn't aware of.

One summer, a near tragedy occurs. It brings people together, threatens to tear others apart, and starts to gnaw away at the secrets everyone has hidden away. The courage and curiosity of one brave young girl is both what the town needs and what could potentially destroy relationships and lives.

If The Things We Wish Were True sounds a lot like a soap opera, it definitely has a soapy, melodramatic tone, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way. There's a lot of drama, both real and manufactured, and these people sure do have a lot of buried skeletons! But amidst the secrets and the fears are inherently good people caught up in circumstances they can't control, and the possibility of redemption and happiness where some might have feared there would be none.

I enjoyed this book, but then again, I always loved a good soapy novel every now and again. While some of the plot twists I saw coming pretty early on (and perhaps that's what was intended), Marybeth Mayhew Whalen threw in some surprises as well. At times this book reminded me of a less campy Desperate Housewives (more for the secrets than the mischief-making women) and at other times it reminded me a little of a Liane Moriarty novel, but it didn't try to steal style from anyone.

Whalen keeps you wondering what will become of her characters, whose names annoyed me but they themselves really didn't. This book feels like a good beach read, but it's just a plain good one.

Lake Union Publishing and Kindle First provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,739 reviews14.1k followers
August 27, 2016
3.5 Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, the small town Jancy left after high school, threatened by a stalker that none could identify. Now her husband in prison, she and her two young daughters have returned home to her mother, the boy she left behind now married to the woman who had been her best friend. Over the course of the summer, a summer spent at the local pool, a near tragedy will occur and long held secrets will be revealed.

This book is incredibly readable, it flows so well, alternately told in chapters narrated by all the main characters. Cailey, the young girl whose mother must work leaving her in charge of her younger brother was one of my favorites. She is so incredibly wise beyond her years and will be lauded as a heroine before novel's end. Zell, the towns busy body or the one who seems to take care of everything or everyone depending how you look at it, she sees much but misses what is under her own nose. All these stories are wrapped around a missing girl, a girl who has been missing for three months, her parents frantic.

A bit melodramatic, especially the end, but it fits this book well. Small town secrets, characters terribly flawed, actually had me looking down my block and wondering what secrets my well known neighbors were keeping. And I know there has to be some. Just a good easy to read book, with a little suspense thrown in, perfect for enjoying by the pool.

ARC from Netgalley.

Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,340 followers
September 19, 2016
3+ stars. I really enjoyed The Things We Wish Were True for the first two thirds of the book, and then it started taking a couple of turns I didn’t like as much and my enthusiasm fizzled a bit. But I still enjoyed it enough to say it was worth reading as a lighter entertaining read. The novel is told from the perspective of a few neighbours living in a small town in North Carolina. Their lives are intertwined in various ways, and they all have secrets and troubles of some sort or another. The characters are well defined and they don’t have cookie cutter troubles. In fact, I really appreciated that the characters did not fit into easy stereotypes, and I didn’t feel manipulated into feeling strong like or dislike for most of the characters. But then the story builds to a couple of overly dramatic events, and I felt that I was reading another type of book altogether capped off with a pretty sentimental ending. But Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is definitely a good raconteur, and I wouldn’t pass up her next book if I was looking for something light and somewhat cozy. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to a copy.
Profile Image for Kristina.
72 reviews20 followers
October 12, 2016
This book is hard to take seriously, especially with characters with names such as Zell, Jencey, Cailey, Bryte and Lance. It's difficult to get past the names--the whole time I was reading I was wondering--did no one at any point have the courage to tell the author just how ridiculous they are? Isn't that what editors, publishers, etc. are for?

Silly names notwithstanding, I found this book to be mediocre but readable. The many "mysteries" and big "secrets" weren't all that suspenseful and were all too neatly wrapped up at the end of the book. And...I still can't get past those crazy names. This is not a book that I'd recommend to anyone or read again.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,736 reviews940 followers
March 8, 2019
So this book in the end did not live up to the hype I kept seeing all over the place with it. With shifting perspectives (there were six people to track in this book) and the author choosing to make 5 out of 6 told in the third person there was way too much going on for me to even really care about all of these characters.

In addition, due to the plethora of characters, the development of almost all of these characters was shallow. The only exception to this was the character of Cailey. Ms. Whalen shines when she tells Cailey's POV in the first person. Maybe if she had stuck with her throughout this book it would have worked better.

The book goes from Memorial Day through August 2014 in Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. With everything that is going on with North Carolina right now I thought how weird it was the book I finally got around to reading was set there.

The book is told in the third person point of view by these characters: Everett and Bryte (long time best friends and husband and wife) Jencey (former best friend to Bryte and high school girlfriend of Everett), Zell (neighbor of Everett and Bryte and Lance), Lance (neighbor of Zell, Everett, and Bryte).

The author chose to have the character of Cailey (pre-teen) told in the first person.

We have a lot of unexplained tension between Everett, Bryte, and Jencey. The backstory behind these three was boring as anything. Bryte was always secretly in love with Everett and jealous of Jencey. Once Jencey had to move away, Bryte and Everett got together. Now that Jencey is back home, Bryte feels jealous of her previous relationship with Everett.

Jencey is home with her two daughters trying to deal with the fallout from her marriage.

Lance is dealing with the fact that his wife Debra has walked out on him and his two children.

Zell is feeling guilty regarding something dealing with Lance's wife (it was a doozy and I ended up hating this character even more by the time the book was finished) and helps out Lance with his two kids.

Cailey feels out of sorts in the new neighborhood she and her mother and brother have moved into. Since her mother works all of the time, it is up to Cailey to watch her younger brother Cutter. She wishes that their house looked like all of the other houses nearby and feels very set apart from the nice houses with families that surround them.

The characters meet at the local pool and from there after a tragic incident, they find themselves thrown together. I wish that we had got any sense of these people by the time the book ended.

The storyline between Everett and Bryte was pretty awful. I just kept reading and shaking my head. And in the end, things are forgiven though most people would need more than a few hours to shake off the revelations that Everett found out about his wife. And what gets me is that I think the author is portraying Bryte as noble. Instead, Bryte really needs to see a therapist or someone. Because her justifications for everything that she were messed up. She is in love with her husband (yeah okay girl) and she still feels like she's in a competition with a friend she hasn't even seen in years, who she apparently gloats over because she got the guy. Bah.

Jencey I felt for a little bit. Because her life is turn upside down. She also had to move away from her home and the boy she loved because of circumstances outside of her control. I wanted to see a reawaken of this character, a sense of her growing up and realizing that all that glitters is not gold (she was a wealthy man's wife) and get a sense of who she is. Instead we have her running around crushing on someone that is still technically married. The "relationship" that she and Lance had didn't do a thing for me. It felt like she was replacing him with her absent husband because she needed someone to be strong for her.

Lance was a waste of a character. A few times he had some insights into maybe why his wife left, but once Jencey comes on the scene that is all over. He is focused on getting the girl and does not seem to be around much to actually father his two kids.

Zell annoyed me from beginning to end. She has a secret she knows about Debra and once readers are privy to it, I ended up feeling sorry for Debra. Probably because in one of Zell's chapters we are flashbacked to an incident several years before Debra leaves when one of the children is hurt. She bares her soul to Zell about how overwhelmed she is, how she just needs a second or two to herself. That her husband doesn't get it, and he gets to get away from it at least. I felt Debra in that moment and felt sympathetic to her. Maybe because two of my best friends recently had something similar going on with them. They are the best mothers that I know, but they constantly beat up on themselves when they are tired or want alone time from their husbands and kids. They beat up on themselves when they get sick and don't want to cook dinner. I don't know why women do this to ourselves, but I wish that we all gave ourselves and each other breaks.

Cailey just wants to belong, and for a few moments during the summer she does when she gets to interact with other kids and Zell.

We also have some secondary characters, local neighborhood people as well as Zell's husband who barely seems to be around.

A lot of neighborhood mysteries get solved, but the resolutions didn't really ring true (especially regarding Jencey) and I had a hard time believing that any of these people would interact with each other.

The writing was just okay. The flow was awful though. Each chapter was maybe 2-3 pages long and you would jump to another character. Why the author chose to have 5 characters "speak" in the third person boggles my mind. At least there are chapter headings to keep people straight, because the women's voices all started to blur after a while. It didn't help that many of the children seemed to be seen and not heard except for Cailey. I wanted more interaction between all of the characters and their families. These people seemed to talk to each other for maybe ten minutes and move to another scene.

If the book synopsis didn't say that this took place in North Carolina, I would have had no idea. This feels like a faceless suburban neighborhood with no real personality. I don't expect characters to talk "Southern" but there was no real difference between this town and many others.

The ending was wrapped up with everyone practically skipping through gardens together. There are no real discussions to be had, and things that would kill most normal and healthy relationships are ignored. I will probably pass on future books by this author.
Profile Image for Constantine.
838 reviews137 followers
July 5, 2019
Rating 4.5/5.0

The story starts at the beginning of the summer in a small neighborhood. Everybody is getting ready to go to the neighborhood's pool. This summer something happens there that interconnects different families' stories and problems in an interesting way. The nice thing about what the author did is that she gave us the different families' stories from the different characters perspectives. Loved how the characters felt detailed and deep except for the names which take a while to keep recognizing who is who as there are multiple main characters in this book. Then I have noticed that the only character that the author wrote in first person was Cailey. Maybe that was the main character because lots of events/secrets unfold because of her.

The incident in the pool has happened in real life in the author's neighborhood as she mentioned it in the book and she used it very nicely to connect all the different stories. There is everything here, romance, kindness, evilness, betrayal, suspense and so many other things. There is a bit of everything here but everything is added appropriately. Nothing feels over the top.

In my opinion this book is highly recommended because it is not just stories but also some important life lessons that anybody could benefit from.
Profile Image for Lee.
619 reviews98 followers
December 12, 2016
Sycamore Glen in North Carolina is a very small town, everyone knows everyone and everyone else's business, or do they? Lurking behind these friendships, many are hiding secrets and lies while others are quite oblivious to what is happening around them. A near tragedy occurs, which in one sense will bring some closer together but for others, it may tear them apart. The story is told by four women Bryte, Jencey, Zell and Cailey all very different and each with their own set of troubles, but all very likable characters. A very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,343 reviews701 followers
December 30, 2016
3.5 Stars: “Things We Wish were True” is a relatable novel of humans making do: living everyday life, hoping for the best, believing in the best (even when it’s contrary to the obvious). Denial is a big theme as is loss. Although this sounds like a heartbreaking tale, it’s not. It’s a testament to the human spirit.

Told in alternating POV’s, which is one of my favorite plot devices, the reader gets a multidimensional look at the story. It’s a story of the 2014 summer in a suburb of Sycamore Glen, NC. The story begins with Cailey, a “tweenager” caring for her younger brother at a pool. Cailey, her Mom and brother recently moved to Sycamore Glen. Cailey informs the reader that this is one of many moves her single mother makes, while she tries to find a man as well as keep her job. Cailey is solely responsible for her brother, as her mother has no means of childcare while she works. Cailey is socially astute and feels the pressure and judgment the neighbors throw her way, as her family is struggling and not up to par of the suburb.

Meanwhile in grownup land, the reader learns of the lives of two thirty-something women; a empty-nester neighbor; and father who’s wife left him; and the husband of one of the thirty-something women who has ties with both of them. Sound confusing? Yes, it’s a suburb soap opera.

The story goes through the whole summer, with each character finding their selves enmeshed in each other’s lives. It’s a story that could take place in any suburb. We all have secrets from our past, or things we’d rather not dwell on from our past. And we move on. Yet, in this novel, in one summer, a few of the secrets and past events catch up and are illuminated. Cailey plays pivotal roles in each character’s development.

The chapters are short and the plot moves along at a great pace. It’s engrossing and relatable. Everyone has a piece of their lives where there are things that we wish were true. This is a fabulous chick-lit novel.
Profile Image for Catherine McKenzie.
Author 28 books4,603 followers
May 8, 2016
Wow, this book packs a punch. The story unwinds through the alternating perspectives of a host of characters living in the same small town who are all connected through a web of secrets and lies. Deftly told. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition.
594 reviews83 followers
September 18, 2016
I received this from the publisher and Netgalley for my honest review.

This book was good, but not great. I wish I had started it at the beginning of the summer - It's the perfect book to read by the pool, it was a quick read and entertaining, but a few things bothered me:
1. Only Cailey's chapters were written in the first person and Cailey's herself spoke more like a middle-aged woman than a 10 or 12 year old girl, it just didn't sound authentic.
2. The storyline was a little convoluted - too many different themes going on. Stalkers, peeping Tom's, child abuse and abduction seemed to be inserted awkwardly while reading about the usual jealousies, lies and betrayal in a close knit community.
3. Even the jealousies and betrayals seemed a bit far fetched, but after all, it is fiction. However, I really felt as if I was reading a soap opera.
4. I'm no writer and I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I don't think this book was particularly well written.

I would still recommend this book to readers who prefer something light and gossipy. Almost all the characters were likable and the atmosphere was generally upbeat, with a few conflicts and worries about the past thrown in to make it interesting. Also, it was heartwarming to see the neighbors all work together to benefit a family who needed help.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,494 reviews9 followers
October 7, 2016
And yet, Jencey understood, there were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.

If you can get past the unusual names of the main characters, you might be able to enjoy this story: Bryte (is it pronounced like Bright or like Britt?), Cutter, Jencey, Pilar, Zara, and Zell, with a life jacket thrown in by way of Everett, Lance and Cailey. I've never understood it when authors settle on such names; are they trying to be unique, or to just confuse the reader?

I did, eventually, get past that, and I did enjoy the story pretty much. The author experienced something at her neighborhood pool one summer and wanted to share how it united the whole community with a common goal, a dream if you will. She did a good job here, giving us some memorable characters and a title that makes you stop occasionally to ponder how it relates to each one. My heart was with little Cailey throughout, and her relationship with Zell was very special. That's what this book is about after all-- relationships, the secrets we keep, and the things we wish were true but about which we need to GET REAL.

I won a Kindle version from goodreads first reads.
Profile Image for Rachel.
69 reviews2 followers
August 3, 2016
This is a book that wishes it were written by Liane Moriarty. But it was not. Lots of intersecting plot lines that made me say "Wait, what?" and overused awkward phrases ("That she is" came up a LOT).
Profile Image for Dena.
145 reviews
July 9, 2016
This was the first book I read by this author, and I really enjoyed it. To me it was reminiscent of books by Catherine Ryan Hyde, who I also really enjoy (Don't Let Me Go, specifically). The story takes place during the summer of 2014 and focuses on several families who visit the community pool every year and how their lives intersect. It is told from different points of view, which adds to the unique story line, and focuses on the hidden secrets each one is harboring. And they are all harboring secrets!! And while I enjoyed the book overall, Cailey stole my heart. She is the type of character you root for. The type your heart goes out to. And the type you just want to hug and protect. Every book should have a Cailey. This was a great summer read and I will be looking forward to more books from this author.
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
416 reviews37 followers
August 3, 2016
I got this as a Kindle Prime freebie. It's not exactly soaring prose, and the plot is predictable, but I liked and cared about the characters.
Profile Image for Petra.
814 reviews77 followers
September 16, 2016
The Things We Wish Were True follows the events within a small community in North Carolina over the summer of 2014.
Told from multiple perspectives, one in first-person the rest in third-person, the diverse characters include Lance, a father trying to cope with his two children after his wife left, Jencey, a mother forced to return to her childhood home after her husband has been imprisoned, Zell, an older and somewhat lonely woman who loves to help out, Cailey, a young girl from a single-parent family in charge of her little brother, and Bryte and Everett, a couple with secrets and relationship dilemmas.
Some of these characters meet for the first time at the neighborhood pool, others grew up together and have plenty of history.
It was slightly confusing at first as many characters were introduced and the names really tested my memory of who was who. I was switching between listening and reading with this one, so that might have made it more difficult. This reminded me a lot of books by Liane Moriarty, except that instead of the Australian settings, there was the typical Southern charm. A bit like following a soap opera, but not in a negative way. It was actually quite compelling. A lot of drama, some of it was predictable, but I nevertheless was fully engaged throughout and cared about these really likable characters with all their secrets and struggles. My favorites were Zell, the inquisitive neighbor, and Cailey, the young but pretty astute girl. I think I'm generally used to more dark and suspenseful, but this was just a nice, cozy read and light entertainment for a few hours. 3.5 stars.

The narrator of the audiobook did quite a good job of getting the Southern feel across and having the names read out prior to the perspective changing helped a lot to keep me straight about who is who.

I received a copy of the eBook from Lake Union Publisher granting me my wish on NetGalley.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,097 reviews73 followers
September 16, 2016
The Things We Wish Were True is mesh of genres that focuses on a neighborhood, it's residents, and the past and present happenings there. There are 4 key families whose histories together may be different than they each think. The secrets all begin to unravel one sweltering summer. Will the neighbors' relationships survive when all that is hidden comes to light? Can they forgive if they can't forget? There is definitely more going on than meets the eye, and will probably surprise you.

After finishing it, your mind will go here--What all do we not know about our own neighbors? This one will make you think and you won't soon forget. For those of us with an over-active imagination, it will feed our paranoia! :D

**Many thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for granting my wish for a review copy!**
Profile Image for N.N. Heaven.
Author 6 books1,828 followers
November 13, 2018
Sooo good. Once I started, I couldn't stop reading.

My Rating: 5 stars
December 29, 2019
I am torn on how to rate this book. The character's names are uniformly ridiculous; the writing is pedestrian; the "surprises" can be seen coming from a mile away, etc. So I really feel like I shouldn’t give it more than three stars.

But I my rating is based on how much I enjoyed it, what a hoot it was to read, and the certainty that I would buy another book by this same author - so 5 stars it is!

I devoured this in a few days. A boatload of characters interact with each other in a seemingly perfect little slice of suburbia. But there are secrets, drama and intrigue behind every door. There is just enough sex and violence hinted at to make it interesting, but nothing is graphic or cringe-inducing. All in all, the perfect read for when you just want some mindless entertainment.
Profile Image for Danielle (The Blonde Likes Books).
592 reviews331 followers
October 12, 2017
3.5 stars! While this wasn't quite what I expected (for some reason I thought it would be more of a domestic suspense), this was pleasantly surprising! The Things We Wish Were True is about a group of people who all have pasts that are intertwined. After a traumatic event happens one summer, secrets start to be revealed among each person, both from the past and present. Overall, the book kept my attention, and I liked the characters. It was a little confusing at first trying to keep all of the different character POVs straight and remembering who was related to who, and how they all knew each other, but once I got through that piece, I enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews65 followers
February 4, 2017
At first glance life in Sycamore Glen North Carolina is idyllic. A neighborhood where nothing much has changed except the age of the occupants. But nothing is as it seems. Just below the surface there are resentments,fears, old jealousies. A generational tale as well with kids turned grown-ups parenting their children who challenge them as they did their parents.
The story is told in alternating perspectives by the principals of the story.Overall this was easy for me to get into and stay with. If things resolved a little too easily, I can forgive it.The telling was well done.
Profile Image for Lorrea - WhatChaReadin'?.
617 reviews105 followers
March 13, 2017
The Things We Wish Were True takes place in a small town in North Carolina during the summer of 2014. It's a very close knit community and most residents have lived there most of their lives. From Zell, the neighborhood matriarch to Jancey the "prodigal" daughter returning after making a quick escape after high school. Each character has their own story and each story intertwines with each character. It includes twists and turns that will make you need to find out what is going to happen next.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book.

I will admit that at the beginning of the book, there was a little confusion with all the different characters, but after getting into the story, everything soon became clear. Each character carries a secret. Some secrets are small and others could be catastrophic.

Zell - has been limping around all summer and has stopped running, why/
Cailey - is growing up faster than she wants to or should, but with a single working mother is there anything that can stop that.
Bryte - doesn't want to have a second child, the first time was so difficult, she doesn't want to go through that again.
Jencey - Returns home after being away for so long. Will she stay for good this time, or will she run again like she did in the past.
Lance - has recently become a single father, but how long will that be the case?
Everett - Married to Bryte and ex of Jencey has a few of his own secrets that could tarnish his relationships.

There is one story about a summer in North Carolina, told from each persons point of view. Each character has their own side to the story centered around the neighborhood pool. It dives into the past which helps to progress the present. At the end of this summer the whole neighborhood will be changed from the secrets that are revealed.

Profile Image for Danielle.
585 reviews101 followers
March 11, 2023
A great slow-burn, character-driven domestic drama set in a Southern neighborhood. We follow several locals throughout one summer. Their gains and losses, their struggles and strengths. Their many trials. As with any small town, most people there have their secrets and the return of an old friend and an accident at the beloved community pool bubbles them up to the surface.

One thing is for sure: this is going to be one of those summers that changes everything.

I usually complain about this many characters/narrators but I really loved hearing everyone's perspectives this time and they all had a juicy tidbit or two. Being from the South myself, I found this very believable. Many books portraying us are cartoonish and cringe so much so that I usually avoid Southern settings(Crawdads, etc) but this author gets it.
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,585 reviews362 followers
September 5, 2016
A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen pulls you into an all American contemporary neighborhood, with dark secrets and lies, seems everyone is hiding something in her latest: THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE –a Southern charmer looks beneath the pristine exteriors of this friendly North Carolina neighborhood.

In this idyllic Matthews, NC suburban neighborhood Sycamore Glen, everyone meets at the neighborhood pool. There is much depth here – a character driven emotional tale, the author references her inspiration behind the book, which I enjoyed reading.

A perfect Labor Day Weekend Southern read. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (questions included).

Written from multiple contrasting perspectives, starting Memorial Day Weekend 2014, we hear from a variety of characters: Cailey, Zell, Lance, Bryte, and Jencey. At the neighborhood pool.

The opening day for the summer. We continue hearing from each character from May-August. Slowly the characters’ lives are unraveled, and their pasts exposed. Things that threaten lives and relationships.

Cailey, lived in a house which the neighbors hated. People thought they were white trash. Cutter’s dad was in prison. She herself did not have a father, or one she had ever met. Even though the neighborhood sign said: “We’re All Family Here.”, was not true for them.

Driving past all the pretty houses filled her with hope and possibly they would have a better life one day. She lived with her son Cutter and her mom. She did not like people saying bad things about her mom. Even though Cutter could not swim very well and the people ignored them, she liked the pool.

Bryte grew up in Sycamore Glen, always longing for the boy taken by her best friend. Later she has it all, but behind her happiness is a big secret. She is desperate to keep her secret; however, before the book ends, it will come to the surface and stare her in the face, threatening to destroy her relationship and everything she tried desperately to protect.

Jencey grew up in Sycamore Glen and seemed to have it all. She left without an explanation. Years later she returns and causes many questions. Zell always helps out and lends support to others. She also has secrets. She has a sense of emptiness and would give anything to go back to the chaos of a young family.

Lane, a single dad needs to find a babysitter or he is going to lose his job. He had to stop depending on the neighbor lady, Zell. She was always like a fairy godmother. He loved watching sports and drinking beer. Debra was gone and he was holding things together. He was doing the best he could.

Heartfelt, each person has a lesson to be learned, a loss; and most of all a book about redemption; having the courage to start over, and dive back into the things which scare us the most. A fitting title and a perfect cover with the window panes.

Do you really know your neighbors? What lurks behind closed doors.

A tragedy occurs at the beginning of summer, and slowly more secrets rise to the surface. A boy and a girl are the ones to teach the others some important lessons. So, while what doesn’t kill you, can make you stronger, you can ease the suffering of going through it by learning to accept what is.

As a native of Charlotte, NC (Lake Norman/Davidson area), am very familiar with the Matthews, NC area, and the author does a stunning job of portraying the Southern lifestyle, especially in North Carolina.

From domestic suspense, relatable characters, a compelling read which draws you into a their world of pain, loss, fear, hope, and dreams. Exposing the facades, from a range of ages – from young- old, readers will be drawn into the personal lives of each character, glued to the pages.

My first book by the author, and was quite impressed with the author’s winning style. From the vivid settings to the characters most intimate thoughts. In addition to the digital advanced reading copy, happened to be traveling and also purchased the audiobook (ironically flying from Greensboro, NC back to Florida).

The narrator, Taylor Ann Krahn was a perfect Southern match for Whalen! I was so engrossed in this book, was hanging on her every word. A narrator can make or break a book, and Krahn’s voice was spellbinding. Hoping more Southern authors will feature her for an engaging performance.

Triumph over tragedy with many takeaways. For fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Paula Treick DeBoard, Diane Chamberlain, and Barbara Claypole White.

Looking forward to more by this talented author!

“There were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.”

Profile Image for Naima.
184 reviews30 followers
July 5, 2018
I received this book through NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Dropped at 45% percent- I can't push myself to read any further, it's keeping me from other books.

To be completely fair and honest- I'm from North Carolina. I'm writing this review in North Carolina, not too far from where the book is based in (an analog Matthews). I can't bring myself to keep reading because, to be honest, if I wanted to hear a bunch of dissatisfied North Carolinians complain about trivial but nigh-immediately fixable problems, I'd go to a community barbecue. This book is half marital problems and half unresolved childhood frustration, and none of it is the dark intrigue I was promised in the summary.

Onto an actual review of the contents:

There are far too many characters to keep track of, especially since none of them are distinctly memorable. I constantly got Bryte and Jencey mixed up because, save for one Getting The Guy and one not, their personalities are so interchangeable that I couldn't differentiate between them. I think I speak for everyone when I say that a reader shouldn't have to take notes when reading casually to figure out who is doing what at all times, but I found myself having to highlight minute details like "Everett's wife" or "Jencey's friend". None of them are inherently decent people, either- which, honestly, reflects North Carolinians, but I find it hard to believe that only the 1 child in the narrative is the only one with a conscious. We have grown ass adults saying "cheating isn't cheating unless my wife/husband finds out about it" and the narrative completely allows for it, with no punishment. The narrative just lets these very minor (but still terrible) plot points to pass with absolutely zero conflict- the only thing that pushes the story forward collectively is Cutter's status in the hospital... which hasn't changed at all at 45%.

This is one of the major pitfalls of this book- nothing of substance actually happens, but the writing tries to compensate and fails. Purple prose is stretched far too thin over descriptions of just about anything, and I'm just stuck here, tapping my foot and trying to get through another page. Someone Barely a footnote, they're not caught. Someone ? No one even questions this. There's nothing to drive the conflict forward, and nothing to hold my interest as a reader. The story drags its heels with half-baked nonexistent conflicts that are supposed to be titillating, but just come off as distracting from the main plot.

Also, there are also no people of color which, hoo-boy, am I calling bullshit on. A North Carolinian town without a single black person? I don't know what town Marybeth is living in, but it's gotta be a fantasy one for there to be not a single latinx or black neighbor.

Long story short? I bet this is a real novelty for white people that don't live in North Carolina, but, to me, it just read like the author had caught too much gossip on people she cared about and thought she could spin a story out of it.
Profile Image for Vanessa S..
333 reviews81 followers
March 5, 2017
A quick read that still packs a punch, The Things We Wish Were True tells the story of neighbors in a small North Carolina town. It took me a little bit of time to know which character was which, but after that, I enjoyed the alternating perspectives. The book was a bit overly dramatic (think soap opera) at times, but it kept me interested. I am pleased with the ending, and my main complaint about the book is that most of the characters have unusual names, as if the author gave them unique names just for the sake of doing so. Overall, a solid book I'd recommend.
Profile Image for Ruth Cuadrado.
23 reviews5 followers
July 4, 2017
This book should be called "white people's problems".
A book about nothing. There's no story. You'll meet insufferable characters and unbelievable plots. A book hasn't enraged me in a long time.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,745 reviews2 followers
March 11, 2019
This is book that isn't something I would normally read, so much that I can't 'fit' it onto any of my numerous goodreads shelves. It isn't quite an 'unreliable' narrator it is more a reliable but reluctant narrators. Slow, reluctant, reliable narrators with really weird names.

The story is set in a town in Georgia over one summer. Our numerous protagonists gradually come together through crisis, tragedy and trauma. Most of the characters have secrets which will be revealed. Some ARE fairly easy to intuit while one or two will catch you by surprise.

I was told about this book via an Amazon email and read it in one night because I had to know what was going to happen. Thus 5 stars.
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