The Truth According to Us – Macedonia, West Virginia – Annie Barrows

annie B

Why a booktrail?

In the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, times are a changing and history comes to light that could change it even more 

Story in a nutshell

In the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, the Romeyn  family were once one of the most prominent and well known until the Depression hit, and they like everyone else had to adapt to their new circumstances. But life is generally good and uneventful. However things are about to get shaken up big time.

Layla Beck comes to Macedonia, at the behest of her Senator father to write a history of Macedonia for the West Virginia Writers’ Project. This is a scheme set up under Roosevelt’s New Deal to support writers facing hardship. So she starts delving into the town’s history and that lives of its people.

Turns out Macedonia may not be as quiet and uneventful as first thought.

Place and setting

MAP-1

Macedonia, West Virgina is a fictional town although there is a Macedonia in nearby Ohio, this is not the one portrayed in the book. Instead, Macedonia in TTAU is inspired by several small towns in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia particularly Martinsburg (also mentioned in the novel). Annie Burrows tells us more – 

 Martinsburg  Home of a major sock factory called Interwoven Mills, which proudly supplied one quarter of the nation’s males with socks for three or four decades.  My grandfather worked there. Now no longer there, instead we’ve found this historical museum that is worth a visit as it explains the history of Martinsburg and of Belle Boyd ‘the confederate spy’ Romney.  Another source for Macedonia is a small town called Romney Most of the names in the book are derived from graves in Romney’s cemetery, Indian Mound Cemetery   Charles Town where Jottie and Sol go for their tryst, is also a real place, and theh horse show is real.  It is also truly the place where the abolitionist John Brown was hung. Bavarian Inn The Bavarian Restaurant in Shepherdstown, where Felix takes Jottie and the girls to dinner, was not only real in 1938, but is still real today (at least it was a few years ago).   Ice Mountain  where Felix begins his seduction of Layla with ice chips, is a  mountain ridge in West Virginia and is a national natural landmark

Martinsburg
Home of a major sock factory called Interwoven Mills, which proudly supplied one quarter of the nation’s males with socks for three or four decades.  My grandfather worked there. 
Romney.
Another source for Macedonia is a small town called Romney Most of the names in the book are derived from graves in Romney’s cemetery, Indian Mound Cemetery

Charles Town
where Jottie and Sol go for their tryst, is also a real place, and theh horse show is real.  It is also truly the place where the abolitionist John Brown was hung.
Bavarian Inn
The Bavarian Restaurant in Shepherdstown, where Felix takes Jottie and the girls to dinner, was not only real in 1938, but is still real today (at least it was a few years ago). 
Ice Mountain
where Felix begins his seduction of Layla with ice chips, is a  mountain ridge in West Virginia and is a national natural landmark

The time and setting of 1938 in a small town America is evoked in so many ways.

The Federal Writers’ Project was a very real  New Deal jobs program that began in around 1935 before ending in 1943. The year of 1938 was therefore the heyday of the entire project and this is the main setting for the book -this is the year of the second Great Depression after all and was the year before WW2 and the horrors which followed.

Macedonia is a quirky small town community and the people who live there are a delight to meet. Each of them has their own distinctive set of quirks and beliefs and when Leyla comes to town, they are at first reluctant to share their history with her (with this attitude not surprisingly)

‘I can’t stand this poky little town any more. How can I bear it for three more months? Today alone has lasted years…’

– but then start to help share, well their version of history. The Romeyns family also only want to present to the world their edited version of the truth.

The secrets lying beneath the surface of a family with a figurehead such as Jottie may want to stay hidden, but Layla is keen to keep digging, and Jottie could be a good source of information. Niece Willa, aged 12 acts as a kind of mini detective and also starts her own investigation. She doesn’t like the fact that her father Felix is so often away and barely notices her.

Just what will the history of Macedonia reveal? What kind of past does it have and what kind of future is it likely to have after Leyla writes the book? The 150 Celebrations are underway but who knows what will happen once the music stops and the cold harsh reality of day lifts its weary head?

Bookish musings by Susan

I was excited to read this book for many reasons. One was that Annie Barrows was one of the two genius women who wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and well, I was going to read this one straight away.

I was not disappointed. In fact I was drawn into the setting and the characters from the very first page and was enthralled to delve into the lives of the people of small town America. The time period of the depression and the writers project really added historical interest to the story and as soon as Layla started to investigate and  the community try to hide their secrets, I was right there with her, wanting to have a nosy too.

The characters of the story are what make it for me since I felt if I got to know each and every quirky one of them such is the vivid writing and voices of each of them. Jottie I loved and the stories they tell! Wait till you read about the Knock Pie Trail – brilliant and fascinating on so many levels.

I was sad to leave this town and its people – a charming and poignant story.

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