From the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US, a wise, witty, and exuberant novel, perfect for fans of Lee Smith, that illuminates the power of loyalty and forgiveness, memory and truth, and the courage it takes to do what’s right. The book’s charm and wonderful cast of characters won THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US a spot on the June LibraryReads List.

Here’s a fond library memory from Annie Barrows:

Here’s a secret: In 1982, I stole the Children’s Room sign from the San Anselmo Public Library.  It’s on my porch. I will never give it back.

The San Anselmo Library Children’s Room was my favorite place in the world. I started going there long before I could read, to guzzle picture books and sniff the ecstatic scent of paper, glue and dirty hands. A few years later, when I finally had the keys to the kingdom of reading, I went to the library at least three times a week, and learned how to ride my bike one-handed so I could hold onto the towering stack of books in my basket with the other hand. A few years after that, when I was twelve years old, dear Mrs. Merian, the librarian, hired me as a “page,” which meant I reshelved books, repaired jackets, and, best of all, read all the new stuff before anyone else. It was the best job I ever had, and I stayed there until I went to college.

And then, the deluge. I mean that literally. In January 1982, San Anselmo’s creek overflowed its banks and the entire town was flooded under five feet of water. The Children’s Room, in the basement of the library, was under twelve feet of water. When I could get there, two days later, the front door had been smashed by a fence, and books were floating on a sea of greasy, muddy water. Dear Mrs. Merian’s desk was upside down. The card catalogue had dissolved into pulp.

We waded in and began to pull books out of the mud.

But the next day, when we returned, the fire chief was stringing up caution tape, and the head librarian announced that the Children’s Room was a lost cause. It was too far gone, she said, and the town didn’t have the money to restore it. The books that could be saved would be moved to an alcove in the main library upstairs. It was over. My favorite place in the world was extinct. I looked around and saw the black and silver sign that had hung over the door for as long as I could remember, poking out of a pile of mud. I was nineteen and my childhood was, at that moment, over. But I wasn’t going to let it go gracefully. I slopped through the mud, grabbed the sign, and walked out with it.

I’ve had it ever since, hanging prominently in every one of my crummy and, later, non-crummy abodes. About ten years ago, I confessed my crime to the current head librarian at the San Anselmo Library, and she absolved me. She very kindly said it would have been thrown out, so I was actually preserving history by taking it. That’s a nice thought, but I would have taken it anyway, because who can bear to see her childhood come to an end in a pile of mud? My favorite place in the world continues to exist on my porch, where it gives me a permanent though brief whiff of paradise every day.”

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A Library Memory from Annie Barrows

Category: Author Letter

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