The Truth About Everything by Bridget Farr
Its quiet and simple plot masks a much more complex story of coming-of-age under unusual circumstances.
At fifteen, Lark Justus Herbst had never been to school or the doctor. She didn’t have a social security number, ID card, or even a birth certificate. She had always lived with her parents, off the grid, away from the prying eyes and grasping control of the government they told her.
Her father was in charge of her education; she was homeschooled. He vehemently refused to send her to an established school and into government hands to be corrupted and contaminated with their lies. But soon after she’d learned to read a little and do some rudimentary math, the lessons pretty much had devolved into her father ranting about government interference and control and how it was trying to take away the rights the forefathers had guaranteed in the Constitution. The lessons stopped.
Instead of school, Lark’s days were filled with the unending chores required on their farm. She knew the family was barely hanging on. She was always hungry, and her mother was not well, going from manic activity one day to spending days in bed with the covers over her head the next. Her father had gone back to driving a truck, his profession, before buying the farm to bring in some much-needed money. The job kept him on the road and away from the farm for weeks at a time, leaving the burden of the farm on Lark’s young shoulders.
Their closest friends and neighbors were Mike and his grandson, Alex, a boy about two years older than Lark. Listening to Alex talk about his school experiences ignited a longing in Lark to have the same. So one day, when her father was on a long-haul trip, she slipped over the closest high school, a private Christian school, and with a bit of deception, was allowed to enroll in classes. Lark soon discovered there was so much she’d missed, so much she didn’t know! She also found that some of the things her father had taught her weren’t necessarily as he claimed. School was wonderful but hard, too, and she struggled to catch up with the others her age. But school wasn’t her toughest battle; that was keeping school a secret from her parents!
The Truth About Everything is a quiet story about a girl struggling to learn about her world, think for herself, and gain the wisdom to separate fact from fiction. The simple life the Herbst family is living is very precarious. At any time, a minor mishap on their remote farm could have deadly repercussions, and with her parents’ beliefs, there are few workable backup plans.
Lark is a bright and engaging character, and it was fun seeing her take chances and enjoy her school experiences. Her constant fear of discovery by her parents was heartbreaking, and I was worried that, at any moment, her father would become violent. He just felt so angry and tightly wound all the time. Her father and mother are a sad and scary pair; their fears blinding them to the danger and harm they inflicted on their daughter. However, Lark’s friend, Alex, was a sweet guy, and I liked how he supported her in trying to expand her choices.
Lark’s sheltered and deprived life will undoubtedly catch the attention and imagination of young readers. No television, internet, hunger pains, going through her first menstrual cycle without prior preparation from her mother, and then not having the standard supplies to take care of herself at her disposal will be shocking to many. But even little things, something as mundane as having never tasted chocolate candy, will be an eye-opener. The mother and father freely eating and drinking food and beverage forbidden to their daughter was pretty low. The more that was revealed about her life, the more the story’s tension built. Lark needed help.
With a brave and curious heroine and its quiet, simple yet absorbing plot, I recommend THE TRUTH ABOUT EVERYTHING to young adult contemporary fiction readers who like a strong female protagonist in an unusual coming-of-age situation, living off the grid, or a rural Montana setting.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.