Genre-bending at its finest. Horror, revenge, and suspense are all mixed into one feminist tale with a serious edge.
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Why I love it
I remember picking up True Story last fall, devouring it in two sittings, and thinking about it long after. It has everything I love in a novel: a propulsive voice, a brilliantly dark sense of humor and play, and a sense, too, from the very first page, that the storyteller has a dangerous and urgent secret to tell me.
Petty’s novel is the story of an assault and a rumor that shapes one woman’s life. Alice Lovett is a ghost writer who is haunted by the events of one fateful night from her high school years. Other figures in the sinister orbit of this night are Nick Brothers, a Lacrosse player who bears a kind of witness, and Haley Moreland, Nick’s crush and Alice’s friend. Playing boldly with genre, form, and perspective, Petty reveals the true story and how it shadows and dogs each of their lives.
True Story was a singular and spellbinding reading experience for me—it kept me gripped until the very end, seeping eerily into my dreams. Not only is it a profoundly empathetic exploration of victims and perpetrators, lies and truth, and how stories both can destroy and empower us, but I love how it darkly shimmers with shades of thriller, fairy tale, campy horror, and urban legend in order to give powerful voice to its unspeakable and timely truth. Think the baleful nostalgia and fever dreaminess of Twin Peaks with a feminist heart blazing at its core.
A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she cannot tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep."
Back in 1999, Nick Brothers and his high school lacrosse team return for their senior year in a well-to-do Baltimore suburb as the reigning state champs. The afterglow of their big win is bound to last until graduation; not even the pressure of college applications can get in the way of their fun. But when a private school girl attempts suicide in the wake of one of the team's "legendary" parties, and a rumor begins to circulate that two of Nick's teammates sexually assaulted her, it seems like it might ruin everything—until the team circles the wagons, casts doubt on the story, and the town moves on.
But not everyone does. Fifteen years later, four people—Alice, Nick, a documentary filmmaker, and a wealthy entrepreneur—remain haunted by the roles they played, the things they still don't understand, and how the story has shaped their lives. In sections told from different points of view, each more propulsive than the last, the layers of mystery are gradually peeled back as we barrel toward the truth of what really happened that night... and what came after.