Reviewed by June J. McInerney
A sensitive, talented writer can incorporate sordid and distasteful violence—especially toward woman—into a novel’s plot-line so that the reader is not totally offended or turned away. Dalene Flannigan, author of The Truth About Us (November 2011), is such a writer. This short, fast-paced, intriguing novel is not, however, about violence, per se, but how it affects the lives of three college friends. Grace, Jude, and Erica—one a victim of date-rape—find themselves embroiled in the consequences of keeping a “shameful” secret from their past which mold their present and unalterably change their future.
The Truth About Us starts with tall, gangling Grace who senses she does not fit in anywhere, except when filming feminist documentaries. In college, she thought she would fit into Jason’s arms, dating him until—wait! This secret is best revealed in the alternating chapters of each woman telling her own side of their tale. Assembled together, the chapters build a climatic story not only about emotional and physical violence, but about the sin of re-percussive retribution without redemption; poignantly, not one of our heroines truly finds salvation. Save Grace, who, with Erica, is threatened betrayal by born-again Jude, and searches for peace and salvation in a griping and unexpected denouement.
This is a poignantly enlightening book about secrets hiding in our past, nagging our present, destroying our future. As Flannigan writes toward the end of the novel (page 199): “A secret is never locked away tight, it pushes outward…to be avoided, the creaky stair when you’re trying to be quiet…avoidance is hard work and…takes its toll…leaves its mark.” What do you do when a flawed, disillusioned friend threatens to expose it?
Punching home her point, Flannigan weaves simple metaphors into fluidly crisp writing. Grace, ungraceful physically, is full of grace. The present and future of Jude, both betrayer and betrayed, closely parallels that of Judas Iscariot. A pastor becomes a Pharisee; a sister is the only one who sees the unavoidable truth and offers forgiveness; and Jason is both the symbol and catalyst for sin. As the title suggests is the harbinger of our own psychological truths, even if it is literary fiction.
My own truth? At first, I wasn’t going to read and review this novel, best read by mature teenagers and adults, because of its upsetting subject matter and a few adamant pan reviews on various websites. In all honesty, the opening pages turned me off. But Flannigan’s opening passages and her striking style kept nudging at me to give it a second chance—to find its truth for myself.
It only took me a rainy afternoon to read and enjoy it. And I am glad I did.
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