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Review: The Truth About Us by Dalene Flannigan

The Truth About Us is about three women and how one vicious act led to another, changing the arc of their lives forever. Erica, Grace, and Jude probably looked like typical Canadian college girls living the good life — roommates in a townhouse Erica’s father owned, free to study or party, able to plan for their futures. But a book about normalcy would hardly be worth reading, and you want to pick up Truth About Us.

It takes nothing from the wonder of this book to say that The Truth About Us is about secrets and betrayal on many levels. Grace makes documentaries about injustice, often about women imprisoned for killing their sadistic abusers. Erica, with her husband and soccer-playing young twins, is jolted from the comfortable cocoon she has created as much by her husband’s affair (with the woman referred to mostly as Super 8 ) as by Jude’s determination to cleanse her soul.

And then there’s Jude. In today’s parlance she might be called ‘damaged goods.’ She’s made it through drugs, alcohol, and a notoriously active sex life, but she just can’t stand the serenity. Or, as Grace succinctly observes, “..I’m surprised she’s walking with Jesus. I always figured her more for a celebrity stalker or a washed-up rock groupie. But, I suppose it makes sense in a way, a lot more self-hatred in the Jesus camp.”

The content is not comfortable. Men have sexually abused Grace and Jude and these back stories are skillfully woven into the thread of today. Three distinct points of view and glimpses into Erica’s husband Dave’s perspective, and yet the story is seamless. You learn a great deal about what happened in college, but there is discovery throughout.

The book has subtle humor at times. Jude tells Erica, “I know you don’t believe. I used to be lost as well but now I walk with Jesus Christ and he shows me the way.” Erica notes, “Saves you buying a GPS.” But this irreverence cannot hide Erica’s true panic. Secrets revealed can leave lives destroyed, and Erica could lose everything. Or will the truth take the proverbial route to setting her free?

Whatever you think about the events the women have hidden, the secrets’ unraveling is riveting and, at time, heart wrenching. Of the three women, Grace offers the most compelling commentary, and her internal dialogue seems natural. “You teach people how to treat you by what you will accept.’ Yeah, well I taught them it was all right to ignore me and they did.” Through her films she lets people (not just women) know that they can be heard and she has control in what she presents, something life has not offered her. Grace has found her path, and she wants to stay on it.

The initial secret started with Grace and her date, Jason, and it’s tempting to hope it will stay buried. But the story is in many ways Jude’s. She’s the one who is determined to make amends through truth. She seems almost a stereotype for much of the book, but glimpses into her childhood and her internal struggles bring her alive as her attained goodness cannot. But even her strong faith cannot protect her from one last betrayal. Her pain is excruciating.

For its mix of strong voices and careful weaving of memory and current day, I give The Truth About Us five stars.



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