Packed into this engaging debut novel by Maggie Smith are many women’s issues. In “Truth and Other Lies,” she introduces us to Megan Barnes, who has just moved back to her mother’s home in Chicago after getting fired from her job as an investigative reporter in New York and breaking up with her boyfriend there. Her mother’s house, the house she grew up in, has not changed. Everything is Martha Stewart perfect, as is her controlling, conservative, unemotional mother. But paradoxically, that same person is overly smothering and worries about Megan constantly. We see her advising Megan to take an umbrella because of possible rain and wanting her to be safe in other ways that Megan, sometimes unreasonably, sees as intrusive. While Megan loves her mother, they are practically polar opposites in their beliefs, and she can’t wait to get a job and move out in order to regain her independence.
There are surprises waiting for Megan when she finds out that her mother is running for a US Congressional seat, and that it would be very difficult to get a job as an investigative reporter until the election is over because her ability to be impartial would be questioned. When she happens to catch the attention of a famous female investigative journalist, someone whom she has idolized, she hopes that her connection will be able to help her get a job. She does get a job through Jocelyn, the famous reporter, but it’s not the one she was expecting.
In fact, there’s a great deal that happens in this novel that is not what Megan expected of her life. The two older women in her life, one whom she put on a pedestal and the other whom she tried desperately to escape from, become extremely important in the story. And what we are led to believe about each woman might just be turned on its head. We also see Megan’s relationship with her best friend, Becca. We see her conflict when personal needs conflict with work needs; when Becca’s need conflicts with Jocelyn’s needs, and we wonder who will win.
This novel is an easy read. We come to like Megan even as we see her faults, her youth, her lack of judgment. She is like most of us were when we were young, and it’s easy to understand her naiveté. We also get to know the journalist and her mother, both women who are savvy and successful, each in her own way. Older readers will identify with the older women in the story and perhaps reflecting on them might make us revisit what we might have done that we’ve kept secret, or what was done to us that we’ve also kept secret.
We all have things we’d rather not have known to others, and the question becomes how far we will go to ensure that secrets stay secrets. Because such decisions more clearly demonstrate who we are now.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.