Do we own our stories, or do they own us? And how do we claim ownership, reconcile our past and move forward, when our own recollections are defective? When our memories are based on the testimony of others?
Kate Reed Petty’s “True Story” is a propulsive and unconventional psychological mystery about the repercussions of a devastating high school rumour, and a meditation on trauma. Fifteen years ago, something happened to Alice Lovett while she was passed out in the backseat of a car. Two members of Nick Brothers’ Maryland High School lacrosse team drove Alice home after one of their ‘legendary’ parties, and at some point — according to subsequent gossip — sexually assaulted her. The precise details are hazy. Alice has no memory; which makes the vividness of the rumour — the gross, precise detail that spreads through the town; allegations that are denied by the boys — all the more unsettling. And its impact is long-lasting; eternal. Whatever happened on the backseat of that car will shape the rest of her life.
“True Story” flits between Alice and Nick’s stories, and Petty employs a collage of mediums to tell their inextricably linked tales as Nick descends into alcoholism, and Alice is continuously drawn into toxic relationships; scripts, emails, chapters in first and third person, and in present and past tense. This bold mesh of narrative types is seamless, and makes for a compulsive reading experience — and a masterful way of blindsiding readers to the book’s ending, where everything takes on an intriguing new dimension.
An innovative and harrowing examination on the nature of truth and the power of finding your voice. Petty is a writer of immense talent, and definitely one to watch.