The Truth According to Us

Written by Annie Barrows
Review by Helene Williams

Layla Beck, a beautiful, spoiled Senator’s daughter, lands in small-town West Virginia in the summer of 1938, after her father cuts her off and forces her on to the government’s WPA relief program and the Federal Writers’ Project. Her job is to write the history of Macedonia, West Virginia for its upcoming sesquicentennial celebration. No one expects much of her, from her family, to the WPA, to the family she boards with in Macedonia. The Romeyns used to run the American Everlasting Hosiery Company, but lost it, and their position in society, two decades earlier due to fire and theft. Layla steps into a still-simmering battle of wills and conflicting stories about what really happened that fateful night, and gets drawn into the lies, fiction, and truth that create a captivating history of a town and its leaders.

Felix Romeyn, handsome and evasive, with questionable morals; his sister Jottie, smart, suffering, and stalwart in the face of societal rejection; and Felix’s young daughters, twelve-year-old Willa and nine-year-old Bird, are the heart of the Romeyn family. Minor characters are just as well-drawn and believable, adding humor and depth to the story. Barrows fully captures summer life in Depression-era small-town West Virginia: readers will feel the sweltering, humid afternoons, itch at the indentations of wicker furniture on sweaty skin, hear the screams of children as they play, pelting each other with plums. She also perfectly renders the emotions of the characters, as they form unexpected alliances and exhibit the Macedonian virtues of ferocity and devotion in alternately keeping, and revealing, the family’s long-held secrets.

Part epistolary, part narrative, this delightful novel is written from multiple perspectives, melding the past and the present to allow readers to piece together the “truth” about the Romeyn family and the town of Macedonia.