three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-TheTruthOfTheMatterIn The Evidence Against Her (2001), Lily Scofield, her cousin Warren, and Robert Butler—all born in 1888—grew up, married, and had children. The second novel in this planned trilogy, The Truth of the Matter, follows Agnes (Claytor) Scofield, who wed Warren. In 1930, Warren dies in a mysterious car accident, leaving Agnes with four small children. When World War II arrives, her now-adult brood leaves its home in Washburn, Ohio, and Agnes finds herself at odds with life. She slowly gains her independence, but when her children return home with spouses, children, and lives of their own, Agnes must once again rethink life’s journey.
Little, Brown. 327 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0316890049

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a novel about family, about the ways mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and brothers and sisters understand—or misunderstand—one another, how they view themselves, and what they expect of one another. … They remind us that love can provide the anchor through which we can reach, as Agnes does by the close of the book, ‘a smooth, clear, gleaming state of discrete serenity.’" Donna Marchetti

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The novel’s central subject is the tentative, difficult progress of Agnes and her children—including Dwight, but especially her only daughter, Betts—toward a grown-up understanding of one another. … Sometimes the results are poignant. … Sometimes, though, they’re chilling." Wendy Smith

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"To enter this book is to be fully received into a collective history, gauzily familiar from a distance, stunningly revelatory at close range. … Chief among the rich rewards of this novel is Dew’s depiction of Agnes’s sexuality." Rachel Basch

Charlotte Observer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dew’s Agnes is a complex woman, captured at that moment in American history when lives changed and status shifted, when assumptions about roles were challenged and new roles created. … Although Dew occasionally enters the thoughts of the other characters, she is at her best when she focuses on Agnes." Jean Blish Siers

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"For the first half of the book the author seems as tired as Agnes. … At their best these novels are exactly the kind of old-fashioned, multifaceted narrative for which readers often yearn, and if Dew can sustain the momentum she builds in the second half of The Truth of the Matter as she completes the story of Agnes and her children and grandchildren, we will be lucky, indeed." Roberta Silman

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 of 5 Stars
"Identity and the balance between a person’s public persona and private self seem to be prominent themes here. … But even with its lush and lyrical writing, The Truth of the Matter can be as slow as the provincial Ohio town in which it is set." Allison Schlesinger

Critical Summary

An old-fashioned novel in the best sense, The Truth of the Matter follows the evolution of a complex woman from wife and mother to independence in the 1940s. Elaborate family ties, centered on Agnes’s familiar emotions and changing relationships with her children, form the heart of the novel. But Truth also convincingly juxtaposes the minutiae of daily life against a panorama of wartime America. The novel’s unhurried plot concerned a few critics, who cited the first half as limp. Other reviewers compared Agnes’s rich characterization to her more stiffly portrayed children. Either way, critics look forward to the third installment of the Scofield family saga.