In Toni Teepell's debut novel, A Truth Worth Tellin', the reader is introduced to Maggie: a child wise beyond her years and with resposibilities no pre- teen should have to have. Right from the start, I was drawn in by almost 12 year old Maggie's narration of her family coping with life in the '60's in the small town of Pearl, Louisiana.
Riding her bike to the store with her friend Sam, eating oatmeal cookies with the next door neighbor's housekeeper and visiting the library make up a lot of the summer activities. As Maggie a voracious reader tells us , the library consists of a couple of bookcases on Miss Annabelle Whitney's front porch.
Unfortunately, there are other matters that are paramount to Maggie's life. Maggie and her father have a lot to deal with as her mother is a schizophrenic and this makes for a difficult time growing up. The following passage, so poignantly written, seems to sum up the essence of Maggie's and her father's life.
"We do all our living when we have the well Mama. Monopoly games or cards take over most evenings. Some nights we lie in the backyard and look up at the stars. Once we played hide and seek in the house. Ran like we were out in the fields, laughing until our bellies hurt, tears rolling down our face. Her laugh is better than anything in the world."
Too often there is the reality of the sick Mama. Maggie tells other people if they ask about her mother simply that "she keeps busy". Although Maggie does not like to lie, sometimes as she tells God, the truth ain't worth tellin'. But through it all, Maggie loves her mother more than anything. It's the times the family deals with the sick Mama that will tear at your heart.
The book is not all sadness, there are so many moments of light heartedness and joy; even some humor is interjected as Maggie is consumed with things most eleven, almost twelve, years old girls are. Along with Maggie's family story, there is another plot line of Maggie's friend Sam and the story of her relationship with her single, alcoholic mother. Overall, another theme of unconditional love and faith so very well written.
If you are a fan of books that magically evoke images of another time and place and show you inside the characters' hearts, then this is the book for you. A Truth Worth Tellin' is an endearing and emotionally compelling read with likeable, believable characters that I found very difficult to put down. Southern charm at it's best. I'll be most anxious to read another of Toni's books. A very promising new writer! 4.5*****