Truths I Never Told You

Written by Kelly Rimmer
Review by Jessica Brockmole

Beth Walsh never expected to feel so overwhelmed after the birth of her long-awaited son. With her beloved father’s health in rapid decline, she tucks away her own feelings and focuses on the task of cleaning out his house. She hopes for distraction, but instead finds a mystery—a series of paintings behind a locked attic door with a letter from her late mother pinned to the canvas. Sorting through the accumulation of memory in the attic, Beth finds more letters, which offer a family history contrary to what she always heard—a young wife struggling with expectations of motherhood, a young husband overwhelmed with the responsibilities of family life, and an unconventional woman determined to help both in a starkly gendered 1950s America. Beth begins to suspect what she thought she knew about her mother’s brief life and sudden death, but, as her father loses the ability to speak, she must piece together the real story on her own.

Kelly Rimmer writes about mental illness vividly and sensitively. Though postpartum depression is common among new mothers, it is not a common subject in fiction. Through this novel, Rimmer shows not only the expectations for new mothers in different generations, but how society reacted to those who broke from those expectations. The structure that Rimmer chooses to tell her story is effective. Beth and her Aunt Maryanne bring the reader along as they unravel mysteries and make decisions. Conversely Beth’s mother Grace only tells her story through letters, deliberately keeping the reader at a distance. Grace writes for herself, as a way to sort through her emotions; the reader is an onlooker to her emotional turmoil. Recommended for those who enjoy poignant, family-oriented stories.