Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: The Truth About Us by Dalene Flannigan

The Truth About UsWhat happens when the past catches up to the present and the truth surfaces? Three women, roommates back in college, find their lives forever altered when one of them feels compelled to confess the secret sin of their past.
And whose truth is it?
'The Truth About Us' weaves the past and the present in a page-turner that explores the shifting quality of truth, and the cost of secrets.

I'll say this right now: I loved this book. From start to finish it kept me invested in the story and the characters' lives and when I knew it was nearing its conclusion I didn't want it to end. I even told a reader friend how good it was before finishing it, which I hardly ever do because as we all know there are no guarantees against things deteriorating and leaving you disappointed. Fortunately my praises were not dampened but rather reinforced by the last few chapters. I think I'm getting ahead of myself...
The narrators are three women who shared a house in college and are bound together by a secret they've sworn to keep. Their voices are as distinctive as their personalities and lives, and their alternating chapters helped create a fuller picture of the past and present events. I don't know what it cost the author to piece together these three characters. Their pain, fear and struggles are right there on the page, and if any of it was inspired by reality Ms. Flannigan lived or witnessed writing this book can't have been easy. It is possible that the degree to which I became invested in the story is due in part to me recognizing traits of a person I know in one of the characters, and although she is by far not as extreme there is a lot of truth in the portrayal. It is also possible that the realism of one lead affected how impressed I was by character development of the other two. These women were so well-written I believed they could really exist, and I sympathized with them even though their actions didn't exactly put them in the "good girl" camp.
I've read a few debut novels in the last several months and few impressed me as much as The Truth About Us. Actually, By Fire By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan is the only other one I can put in the same class as far as writing goes. It's vivid and personal, emotional and thoughtful, and every word builds the larger picture, like pieces of a puzzle that fall into place one by one to reveal more and more of the whole to the point where at the end you really understand why the characters act the way they do and what their worlds are like. There's never any confusion but rather an increasing understanding that comes with bringing things to light and seeing every detail.
The thing that made this novel particularly satisfying was the last chapter. You know how often you finish a book and want to know what happened next? Here we have that last little bit that gives us a degree of closure and understanding of what happened to the characters when they could finally go on with their lives. It also gives us the last few details we were missing about the events of the night that started it all, and that was like the last full stop that said 'this is it, there is nothing more to tell'. I loved how the finality of it brought the story to its true conclusion.
Some may be inclined to categorize this book as a mystery and although there is an element of that genre here I think that this novel is more an exploration of what truth is and what it means to different people, how our lives affect our understanding of it and how our circumstances determine the grey areas around it. The concept of truth runs through everything in this book, not just the parts associated with the secret that's weighing on the characters and spurs them into action. It underscores the idea that every day we are living out our own truth, struggling with it or reveling in it. This is the truth about us, however we understand it.

1 comment:

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