Julie Schumacher

The Book of One Hundred Truths

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The Book of One Hundred Truths Summary

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The Book of One Hundred Truths (2006), a young adult novel by American author Julie Schumacher, follows 12-year-old Thea Grumman as she wrestles with her habit of compulsive lying during a family holiday. Described by Publishers’ Weekly as the “story [of] a sympathetic preteen as she fumbles her way toward adulthood,” the novel earned broadly favorable reviews. Schumacher, who teaches creative writing at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, writes fiction for adults and for younger readers. Her best-known novel is 1995’s The Body is Water, a PEN/Hemingway nominee.

We meet 12-year-old Thea as she leaves for her annual summer trip to her grandparents’ house by the sea. She has been going there every year since she was six years old, so she is confident she has packed everything she needs. Nevertheless, as she boards the plane, her mother gives her a blue notebook and a challenge: to write down 100 true statements during her three-week vacation.

Thea explains, “I’m a liar.” It started about six months ago. The first lie made her sick, but it became easier, and now she lies about everything, indiscriminately. Her teacher sent her to the school counselor, but he wasn’t able to help. Thea’s parents are worried.

Thea’s two aunts pick her up from the airport and argue all the way to the house, where Thea learns that things aren’t going to be quite the same this year. Her usual bedroom is occupied—in fact, the only space is in the attic storage space, and as if that weren’t bad enough, she has to share these cramped quarters with her seven-year-old cousin Jocelyn. At once, Jocelyn becomes Thea’s “shadow,” following her everywhere and badgering her with childish questions.

Meanwhile, Thea is struggling to think of truths for her book. She notes that her family is strange and that she loves them. She admits that she doesn’t like sharing a room and that she wouldn’t have come if she had known there would be so many people here. Gradually, however, she starts to write more revealing truths: She has recurring nightmares; she misses her friend Gwen; she never wants to go to Three Mile Creek again.

Jocelyn itches with curiosity about Thea’s blue notebook, but Thea forbids her from reading it.

To get away from the crowded house, Thea decides to go on a bike ride—but she can’t shake off Jocelyn. She agrees to let the younger girl come along. As they cycle along the boardwalk, they spot their aunts ahead of them, which piques Thea’s curiosity: They should both be at work.

Jocelyn helpfully tells Thea that she also suspects their aunts of keeping a secret, based on their strange behavior before Thea’s arrival. The girls set out to investigate. Back at the house, they find a key that has purposely been hidden. The key is tagged with an address, but Thea doesn’t recognize it. The girls begin following the aunts every day until they are caught and told to stop. Instead, the girls decide to cycle to the address written on the key-tag.

On the way, Jocelyn accuses Thea of knowing their aunts’ secret and keeping it from her. Thea asks her why she thinks that, and it becomes clear that Jocelyn has been snooping in Thea’s blue notebook. Thea loses her temper, and as a result, loses control of the bike. They crash and Jocelyn injures her head. Thea—also injured—rushes Jocelyn to hospital.

At the hospital, Jocelyn asks Thea to tell her why Thea’s friendship with Gwen ended. Thea finally reveals her secret. One day, she and Gwen were playing at the frozen creek, when they discovered that Gwen’s little sister Marie had secretly followed them. Thea invited the younger girl to join them—against the rules set by Gwen and Marie’s parents—and Marie fell through the ice. Marie was all right, but Gwen asked Thea not to tell anyone what had happened. Forced to lie to her parents, Thea had begun lying to everyone.

In return for Thea’s revelation, Jocelyn offers one of her own: their aunts’ secret is that they’re helping Jocelyn’s mum find a new apartment, because Jocelyn’s parents are getting a divorce. Jocelyn knew all along.

Now that she has revealed the truth to Jocelyn, Thea is able to tell her aunts. They reassure her that she is not to blame for the accident at the creek or Jocelyn’s cycling injury. Thea feels able to tell her parents the truth. She has also learned to feel grateful for her family’s weirdness: without it, she wouldn’t have overcome her compulsive lying.

Suitable for ages nine to twelve, The Book of One Hundred Truths focuses on the liberating power of telling the truth, but it also teaches older children to take their responsibilities to their younger relatives seriously.