The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book is a dark horse. It's a snapshot of a small, sleepy town in West Virginia at the end of the Depression. What was happening in 1939 in West Virginia? People were jobless, there was a chasm between the classes, prohibition, and unions were in embryonic stage. That sounds rather boring and a lot like a high school history class, doesn't it? In the home of Willa Romeyn, age 12, there was a lot going on. The main story is about a family, their skeletons, lies, truths, loyalty and forgiveness, told in a beautiful and quirky manner infused with humor. The core of the story parallels Layla Beck, boarder at the Romeyn home and banished from her rich father's home to learn a lesson. She is commissioned to write the history of Macedonia, Virginia. Boring, indeed. Except. She discovers that history is an extension of the one telling it. Founding fathers were not always quite so upstanding. Accepted history is partial truths.
The only parallel that encompasses the definition of truth to me is my absolute refusal to do genealogy and family history work. Snore. Yet somehow the stories of my great-great grandfather snagged me. Sure, he was a Pony Express rider, spoke fluent Shonshone (which is why he wasn't killed), and worked as an interpreter. But I wondered upon the morbid. Why did he only have one arm and one leg? He arrived in the valley intact. I started searching and, by the power of the mighty Internet, found a very distant cousin willing to share the truth as she understood it. He lost his arm in a combine at the age of 14. At the age of 52, he was racing down a canyon and got pinned between a tree and the wagon. He had to have his leg amputated. That's the tame version. History defines us, particularly when it is an ancestor.
The extended truth is that the amputation developed gangrene and he became very ill and delirious. Chief Washakie stayed with him in the makeshift hospital which was a jail. A second amputation ensued but my g-g-grandfather continued in his delirium crying, "My foot is wet and my toes are curled!" After many days, a kind woman dug up the amputated limb. It was wet and his toes were curled. She straightened them, dried it, and gave it a proper internment. He immediately stopped complaining and his fever subsided. He healed soon after.
Which version of history do you prefer?
So did Miss Layla Beck.
The truth is an autobiography of the teller. So, yeah. I'm rather morbid.