Our latest review from Volunteer Coordinator Rob Davies
We read our first young adult novel this June, All the Truth That’s In Me, by Julia Berry. This book was another first among the group in that everyone was unanimous in their enjoyment of it (which is a rarity).
All the Truth That’s In Me is set within a settler’s village in early America, a time when people from Europe were making the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to carve out a new life. Some were fleeing from persecution and others were seeking to create a better world. These communities were hardened, used to tough winters, disease and mortality. They were driven by religious zeal, ambition and a deep spiritual strength.
Within this world our narrator Judith, leads us and it is not for the faint hearted. Judith retells her story of being kidnapped by a man thought dead, followed by him removing her tongue and then her tough reintroduction into the village. The village is filled with sinister and graceful characters, all of them written believably and earnestly. The story ends in a dramatic apex, but I don’t want to provide any spoilers.
The relationship between Judith and the other characters drives a lot of the story, but it’s the relationship between Judith and her mother which is heart rendering. Her mother, believing her daughter to be dead, struggles to welcome her back. She is widow looking after her maimed son and the new world is bleak for her. There are scenes when Judith’s mother maliciously locks her out the house in the freezing night.
The story is told from Judith’s point of view. Judith has a stump for a tongue after it was savagely removed; at first believed to be a mute, she is vulnerable and believed to be a fool. However through a friendship with Mary, she soon learns to speak once more. It is a strand of the story that symbolises overcoming the odds, something that rings very heavily with Berry’s chosen audience.
This novel is a young adult novel and Berry is very aware of that. Even though she is dealing with adult issues she uses clever constructs to speak to her audience. This, I believe, is the genius of this book and of course other good young adult novels.
All the Truth That’s In Me is a rural read; the settlement is built upon agriculture and is surrounded by the wild unknown. The community depends upon fertile fields, their livestock and a good harvest. The novel also inhibits the isolation that rural communities used to (and still do some cases) embody, which adds to the drama of the story.
All of us would recommend reading All the Truth That’s In Me and if you know a teenager, pass it on to them once you’ve read it. For July we’re reading Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – stay tuned!