Reviewed by Jim McCarthy
A history read can often be a serious undertaking but sometimes not difficult, especially concerning the United States since most folks have studied the subject in school. Sometimes a history read is difficult because of the topic or due to a radical or revised interpretation. This latter often applies to the works of Eric Foner and Howard Zinn, who not only tackle serious and sensitive material but offer alternative views from those to which we have been exposed.
Less often, we encounter a work of history that is written more like a novel, a personalized narrative of events in simple language. These Truths by Jill Lepore engages the reader in this way, guiding us through the history of the United States from pre-colonial inception to the 20th century, in a friendly tone but one fully anchored in actual events, people, and forces, such as slavery, industrialization, war, and politics. There are no earth-shaking revelations here, but the narrative process exploited by the author conveys the arc of US history with an unusual and welcome clarity both refreshing and instructive.
Lepore is both a skilled narrator and writer employing metaphors from real-life events to illustrate the connective tissue that courses through and weaves the record of development and evolution of any nation. Lepore has created a delightful and informative experience that will satisfy the most critical of readers, as well as the casually curious. The Epilogue to this work is a superb exposition of the goal of this volume and, perhaps, worth reading as a foreword. Hopefully, readers wll find, as did this reviewer, a renewal of interest in historical literature.
As the author noted in her Acknowledgments:
It is a truism that every book takes an author a life to write. In this case the truism is apt.
These Truths and its author have shared the results of this life and career to the benefit of all.