Cover Image: The Truth of Who You Are

The Truth of Who You Are

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read a copy of this book for my review.

The story is about the hillbilly life during the 1920s thru the depression in the Smokey mountains of Tennessee. A family that owns land and a cabin in the woods which will be taken by the government for a National park.
The story is told by Ben Taylor the oldest of five children. The story gives an excellent picture of what life was like  when the depression hit, and when  money and work were nearly gone..

Ben tries to care for his family and joins the Civil Conservation Corp.  He has skills to raise to writer for the news.  He has to write and embellish the great achievements of the Corp and men who work there.  However, the reality in the story is about the situations that  Ben goes thru to survive the everyday, hardships,, fights, protections, friendships and family interactions. 

The story reads easily and you can feel for the characters.
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The Truth of Who You Are is a really lovely coming of age historical novel about a young boy and his trials and tribulations of growing up poor in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee in the Depression years. Protagonist Ben Taylor, the eldest in a family of five living children, is sensitive to the strengths and foibles of his close and extended family, as well as the folk in the nearest town. His family owns a good amount of heavily forested land, but has very little income, and Ben does everything he can to earn his keep and assist his family.

When the Depression reaches its darkest days and the family is unable to sustain itself, selling land to logging companies or the government is the only way out of abject poverty. Ben eventually begins working for one of the many WPA programs devised by the government to employ the jobless masses; in this story it’s the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Told entirely from Ben’s point of view, Sheila Myers' evocative tale invites readers into Ben’s mind and heart as he struggles to provide for his siblings, retain his dignity in the face of overwhelming odds, and eventually become the sort of man he wanted to be. Myers’ prose is beautifully polished and evocative of a past era in a specific corner of the US during the 1920s and 30s. I loved learning how a WPA project worked from the life of an insider, especially so because the historical details were so skillfully woven into the story. I highly recommend The Truth of Who You Are to fans of 20th century US historical fiction..
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Wow! Absolutely loved this novel. I went for my first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains this past summer – I’m only sorry this novel hadn’t yet come out when I was hiking in these picturesque mountains. Will need to reread on my next visit.

This luscious historical novel had me fully grounded in the hillbilly life of rural Tennessee in the 1920s and leading up to the Great Depression.

This compelling story is told through the perceptive eyes of young Ben Taylor, the oldest of five children of a land-rich, cash-poor hillbilly family. Ben is the ideal protagonist, a sensitive boy well grounded in his beloved mountains and the life and traditions of his kinfolk, one who can observe the world around him with intelligence and a dose of innocence.

The novel opens with our protagonist working at the local newspaper. We are soon transported back to the 1920s, when young Ben is one of five children living in the Appalachian mountains. His father is a local and his mother a northerner, and Ben has aunts and cousins living on the mountain slope. Life is difficult for a large family, and becomes even more difficult when his younger brother suffers from consumption (tuberculosis) and requires expensive cures. Falling into debt, the family falls prey to competing interests: the local lumber companies and the federal government – each eager to buy up their land for a pittance.

Ben, like many of his community, will eventually work for the government that destroyed the way of life for Ben and many of the mountain-dwelling community. Ben works for the WPA program that develops the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The entire novel is filled with lush descriptions and compelling historical details. Ben makes for an insightful protagonist, bringing the era and the mountain people to life. I highly recommend this novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.
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It’s a starkly honest start – this story begins with an obituary reporter in a newspaper office looking out a window. He thinks about his doctor’s pronouncement that he will die soon. He witnesses the furtive movements of an abused wife and then her intrepid abuser. Each of these notes swirl into a mix of introspection. He’s had the role of writing about others’ lives after death, smoothing over uncomfortable secrets, and now knows that his will end. Will his life reveal the hundreds—hundreds of thousands—of small untruths he’s told throughout his own life? The choices and inevitable regrets? Author Sheila Myers covers impressive terrain while exploring these themes.

The narrator, Ben Taylor, begins his story as an uncomplicated big brother, entering young manhood in the hills of the Smoky Mountains in the 1920’s, His upbringing has been a simple life of living off the land, where the undulating hills and forests of old and new growth trees are deeply familiar. But as he comes of age, while a part of him is tied to his family life, another part is drawn to the curious changes coming to their mountain by logging companies and the wealth it rewards its workers. It’s an age-old conflict of preserving the old against the destruction of inevitable progress that Ben will witness again and again throughout his life. His story takes us into the Great Depression, inside the Civilian Conservation Corps across the ocean to the Battle of the Bulge and into the 1950’s and more. Stepping back, it’s an impressive sweep of history; yet, Myers makes it all personal by keeping the story close to Ben. An emotionally scarred neighbor, Finn, reflects the haunting horror of WWI’s trench warfare. A botanist-inspired sister, Mary, mirrors women forging into new career territories. No one can stay untouched by the times they live in—even in the back hills of an old forest.

And as for Truth, Myers forces Ben to grapple with it by becoming a writer. He’s asked to embellish CCC’s accomplishments to help it curry political favor. He’s called upon to fabricate heroic stories of fallen soldiers to their next-of-kin in WWII. Each of these incidents and more leaves him in that newspaper office at the end of the book with insistent questions about how his own life should be reviewed. What was the truth? Was it all worth it? I found Myer’s insistent examination stayed with me long after I finished the book.
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Magnificent book!  I am a sucker for books set in the time of the Great Depression and this one was very interesting. It read like a family biography. You could tell there was a lot of research that went into it. Set in the Great Smokey  Mountains we follow the life of Ben Taylor from early teens to work for the Civilian Conservation Corp. to getting married and then in the war. It was a beautiful heartwarming story. 

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this amazing book!
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