Published: October 1st 2013 by HarperCollins
Format: ARC, 304 pages
Genres: Historical, Thriller/Mystery
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Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years later, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by her friends and family.
Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to her childhood friend, Lucas. He is the boy who has owned her heart for as long as she can remember - even if he doesn′t know it.
But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose - to continue living in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.
At first I thought this book was a scary thriller (I think I can be forgiven, given the Australian cover), and when I was told it wasn’t, I picked it up and read a chapter. I was intrigued, but also flummoxed – it said ‘you’ and I wasn’t sure I was up for a second-person read where I have to endure everything the narrator says.
But I picked it up again recently, and got past the first few chapters. This is a brilliant, brilliant book, and I am extremely annoyed I held myself back with it. It’s a raw, emotive narrative about Judith, who went missing with her best friend two years ago. Judith returned, Lottie didn’t.
Berry is a talented author who brings Judith’s story to life vividly. I like reading stories set in small towns because there’s a certain quality about small-town-life that I’ve always been enamoured of – where everyone knows each other and its nigh on impossible to keep secrets. Judith is usually ignored by the towns-people. They treat her like she’s got a disease they might catch, and generally scorn her for the mysterious disappearance and the death of Lottie. But Judith remains strong and mostly positive throughout it all. Despite her mistreatment at the hands of everyone around her, including the brother who calls her ‘Worm’ and the mother who won’t take her name at all, Judith remains compassionate towards others and helps others when she can.
Judith harbours a deep love for her neighbour Lucas, who she grew up with. They were quite close before her disappearance, and all signs pointed to Lucas courting her in a few years (did I mention this is a historical novel?), but when Judith came back and her chastity and pureness were in question, they grew apart. It doesn’t stop Judith from looking out for him and always wishing him well (even when it’s killing her to see him with someone else).
This story explores how people treat someone if they can’t speak – they assume she can’t hear as well. Judith knows many of her town’s secrets because people forget to guard their tongues around her, or figure that she won’t tell anyone. They also scorn her, and sometimes refuse to help her because they are afraid or disgusted by her. But the worst are the people who try and hurt her, assuming she can’t defend herself. It broke my heart to see people who guessed the worst about her and then assumed she’d be happy to lower herself further. And they were the ones who cried out ‘whore’ the loudest when it all came to light. Disgusting creatures.
Judith has kept the secret of where she was in those two years, and what was done to her, from everyone around her, but when the slow, predictable life of her village is threatened, it sets into motion a series of events that force her to choose: either go on as before and condemn those around her, or help them out and bear the consequences. All the resentment and fear that the townsfolk have of her come back to the forefront, but Judith deals with them admirably and remains strong. I love how resilient she is!
As I mentioned before, the writing style of the book took me by surprise. It’s not actually in second-person. Judith – compelled into silence since her return – keeps up a constant dialogue in her head with Lucas. She tells him every thought she has, describes everything she sees to him, tells him everything she does. It’s not second-person, it’s not a letter, it’s not anything I’ve ever read before. This style can take a little getting used to, especially since the story jumps around in time and is told in little passages, sometimes spanning only a paragraph, and other times many pages. But it’s always compelling.
All the Truth That’s in Me is a beautifully told and evocative read that I enjoyed greatly. It certainly takes some getting used to, but I think that readers who can immerse themselves in the unique story-telling they will enjoy it a lot. I’m going to be looking out for her other books now!Blogging Outside the Box is a feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.