Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a version of the truth

A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack

Cassie Shaw has never been much of a scholar. In fact, she dropped out of high school and got her GED because trying to thrive with dyslexia in an academic setting was just too frustrating. Now that she’s 30, and a widow, and living back home with her mom again, Cassie just wants to move on with her life.
Potential employers all want to talk about her education though, and even the temp agency jobs require a college degree. Cassie knows she doesn’t want to work with her mom at the wildlife center forever, so she lies on her resume to get an interview for an office job. It works; she’s hired to assist two psychology professors with typing and filing at the local university. Cassie has to work extra hard at tasks that involve reading and writing, and she is succeeding at her job. She even starts attending the animal behavior lectures of one of her bosses, Professor William Connor. With her years of living in the wilds of Topanga Canyon and all of the time she spent at the wildlife center, Cassie immediately takes to the subject matter. It doesn’t hurt that Professor Connor is handsome, charming and a bit of a flirt. Cassie begins to transform herself to blend into the academic world. She changes her clothes, her hair, her hobbies, her friends – and not everyone agrees that these are improvements. Underneath all of these changes, though, is the big lie on her resume, the one she is trying to cover up, and possibly even to make true eventually. But for now, Cassie Shaw is only living a version of the truth.

In this story, the characters really drew me into the action. Cassie’s challenges are never explicitly referred to in terms of self-esteem, but her deceased husband was certainly not an encouraging or supportive man. Even though I personally am not into the great outdoors, I appreciated the beauty and comfort that Cassie found there. Without preachy environmentalism, the authors share a profound connection with nature and the benefits of heading out into the woods. Another sign of our times was that Cassie’s friend had a brother serving in the military in Iraq. While this was a minor part of the story, it seems fitting to acknowledge some of the ways that the current war is affecting families and friends back home in the literature of the times. These authors, Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack, worked together previously on the delightful Literacy and Longing in L.A. which I reviewed here. This book again features intelligent writing, appealing romance, and (best of all) a multitude of reference to other books (this time with a natural and environmental focus).

I read the ARC and actually, shockingly, got the review written on the same day the book came out, for once... 325 pages.


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