Lucresse and her brother Ben have an unusual life. On the one hand, they aren’t starving, as many people around the world were during the Great Depression. But on the other hand, their circumstances require a constantly changing back-story in order for them to be accepted by polite society, which was much harsher and more judgmental than it is today.
For one thing, their mother is dead, and their father, a much older man than their classmates’ fathers, has not remarried. Not unless you count Fred, their chauffeur, butler, and otherwise highly respectable servant whose devotion to their family is not fully understood until a crisis strikes. Fred does not sleep with Father, of course. He has separate quarters, but no separate life. They’re pretty much his whole story.
Lucresse has the trouble with the truth that gives our novel its title. Her whole life is predicated upon a series of courteous lies; every time they pack everything and move to a new town, which occurs as often as four times annually, she and Ben are thrown birthday parties. There’s a good reason to do that, but it’s not true that it’s their birthday, and they both know it. And when Father cultivates the acquaintance of a well-known actress and she moves into their guest room, a visiting aunt is told she is the book keeper. It’s another lie, for the sake of appearances.
This highly accessible, charming novel is set out in brief chapters, and in most cases the chapter represents a new story within the overall story, so it is almost like reading a series of consecutive short stories featuring the same characters. With quirky good humor and also a certain amount of ambiguity regarding our head of household, I found myself smiling and nodding at the fib-to-cover-another-fib.
Though the family’s life is bizarre, the children are loved and well cared for; this is no Glass Castle. Rather, it is a portrait of a fictional family that never quite meets the conventional standard society seems to expect.
Recommended for those who like a little whimsy now and then.