I’ll be honest and say that The Truth According to Us got off to a slooooow start. I kept picking the book up, reading a few pages, and then putting it back down. Despite the promising setting–everyday life in a quirky southern town pre-World War II–I just had a hard time feeling interested in the characters or engaged in the story AT ALL. It was rough for a while there.
But something happened about a quarter of the way in. I swear, it was like author Barrows switched on a light or something, and suddenly I connected. The characters truly came to life: Willa perfected her “expert” snooper skills–and actually started discovering some real dirt on her family members. Layla evolved beyond the spoiled, slightly stupid rich kid caricature she was and developed some smarts–and a bit of attitude. And the entertaining, endearing–but mysterious–back-stories of Felix and Vause started getting some real play. The more I read, the more invested I felt, and halfway through the book, I was desperate to know what really happened in that fire.
It helped, too, that Barrows was able to (eventually) make these characters so very real. I felt like I knew them–and, even more than that, I wanted to know them. Jottie, Felix, Vause, and Willa are so funny, so quirky and sweet and devoted to each other. I really enjoyed getting to know them and then watching them interact with each other. Even more impressive, Barrows was able to make their feelings important to me. I was absolutely invested in their emotional states. The chapter where Willa has the recurring dream about her father broke. My. Heart. And the rooftop reunion at the end left me in tears.
I couldn’t believe, actually, how this book (with its painfully slow start) could end up provoking such an emotional response in me by the end. What a wonderful and unexpected surprise. My only wish, then, is that Barrows had been able to get to the good stuff more quickly. Yes, this book is crazy long, but I think characters and story could have sustained that length if Barrows had made the first 150 pages as good as the last 350 pages.
Despite this admittedly significant misstep, I loved the last 2/3 of this book so much that I would still wholeheartedly recommend The Truth According to Us to just about anyone. If you are willing to slog through 100 pages of slightly tedious “set-up,” there is no doubt that the payoff is worth it. This one ended up being a gem.