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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Things We Wish Were True


Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 9/1/2016

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations. From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

My Review

A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen pulls you into an all American contemporary neighborhood, with dark secrets and lies, seems everyone is hiding something in her latest: THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE –a Southern charmer looks beneath the pristine exteriors of this friendly North Carolina neighborhood. In this idyllic Matthews, NC suburban neighborhood Sycamore Glen, everyone meets at the neighborhood pool.

There is much depth here – a character driven emotional tale, the author references her inspiration behind the book, which I enjoyed reading.

A perfect Labor Day Weekend Southern read. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (questions included). Written from multiple contrasting perspectives, starting Memorial Day Weekend 2014, we hear from a variety of characters: Cailey, Zell, Lance, Bryte, and Jencey. At the neighborhood pool. The opening day for the summer. We continue hearing from each character from May-August. Slowly the characters’ lives are unraveled, and their pasts exposed. Things that threaten lives and relationships. Cailey, lived in a house which the neighbors hated. People thought they were white trash. Cutter’s dad was in prison. She herself did not have a father, or one she had ever met. Even though the neighborhood sign said: “We’re All Family Here.”, was not true for them. Driving past all the pretty houses filled her with hope and possibly they would have a better life one day. She lived with her son Cutter and her mom. She did not like people saying bad things about her mom. Even though Cutter could not swim very well and the people ignored them, she liked the pool. Bryte grew up in Sycamore Glen, always longing for the boy taken by her best friend. Later she has it all, but behind her happiness is a big secret. She is desperate to keep her secret; however, before the book ends, it will come to the surface and stare her in the face, threatening to destroy her relationship and everything she tried desperately to protect. Jencey grew up in Sycamore Glen and seemed to have it all. She left without an explanation. Years later she returns and causes many questions. Zell always helps out and lends support to others. She also has secrets. She has a sense of emptiness and would give anything to go back to the chaos of a young family. Lane, a single dad needs to find a babysitter or he is going to lose his job. He had to stop depending on the neighbor lady, Zell. She was always like a fairy godmother. He loved watching sports and drinking beer. Debra was gone and he was holding things together. He was doing the best he could. Heartfelt, each person has a lesson to be learned, a loss; and most of all a book about redemption; having the courage to start over, and dive back into the things which scare us the most. A fitting title and a perfect cover with the window panes. Do you really know your neighbors? What lurks behind closed doors. A tragedy occurs at the beginning of summer, and slowly more secrets rise to the surface. A boy and a girl are the ones to teach the others some important lessons. So, while what doesn’t kill you, can make you stronger, you can ease the suffering of going through it by learning to accept what is. As a native of Charlotte, NC (Lake Norman/Davidson area), am very familiar with the Matthews, NC area, and the author does a stunning job of portraying the Southern lifestyle, especially in North Carolina. From domestic suspense, relatable characters, a compelling read which draws you into a their world of pain, loss, fear, hope, and dreams. Exposing the facades, from a range of ages – from young- old, readers will be drawn into the personal lives of each character, glued to the pages. My first book by the author, and was quite impressed with the author’s winning style. From the vivid settings to the characters most intimate thoughts. In addition to the digital advanced reading copy, happened to be traveling and also purchased the audiobook (ironically flying from Greensboro, NC back to Florida). The narrator, Taylor Ann Krahn was a perfect Southern match for Whalen! I was so engrossed in this book, was hanging on her every word. A narrator can make or break a book, and Krahn’s voice was spellbinding. Hoping more Southern authors will feature her for an engaging performance. Triumph over tragedy with many takeaways. For fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Paula Treick DeBoard, Diane Chamberlain, and Barbara Claypole White. Looking forward to more by this talented author! “There were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.”

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Advance Praise

“The Things We Wish Were True is a brilliant glimpse into the realities of suburban life. Startling. Compelling. Redemptive. It’s the kind of story that makes us wonder how well we really know ourselves—much less our neighbors. Marybeth Whalen has a gift for turning over the pretty surfaces of life, finding the hidden things beneath, and then exposing them to the light. I found myself drawn in, unable to look away from these characters and their dark, tender, familiar lives. I utterly loved this novel.” —Ariel Lawhon, author of The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress and Flight of Dreams

“Marybeth Whalen has a gift for illuminating the dark corners of suburban life. The neighbor you think you know...but do you really? The couple with the seemingly perfect marriage...until the blinds are drawn. The Things We Wish Were True is a novel that explores the nuances of community and belonging, showing us the hope, pain, disappointments, and joy that exist behind the facades of a typical American subdivision. The characters are relatable and engaging, and you’ll find yourself pulling for them all, from the overwhelmed single dad to the hyper-responsible young girl to the lonely empty-nester or the divorcee forced to return home and face the past she’d vowed to outrun. Perceptive, astute, and oh-so-relatable, The Things We Wish Were True is a winner!” —Kim Wright, author of The Unexpected Waltz and The Canterbury Sisters

“With skill and compassion, Marybeth Whalen digs beneath the surface of a quiet suburban neighborhood to reveal its darker secret side. Full of unexpected twists and sympathetic, relatable characters, The Things We Wish Were True is both surprising and heartwarming and it's sure to have you examining your own peaceful neighborhood with new eyes.” —Diane Chamberlain, USA Today bestselling author of Pretending to Dance

“The characters in The Things We Wish Were True may live in a small town, but their hearts are as big as all outdoors. Marybeth Whalen has created an ensemble cast whose lives intertwine and touch one another in moving and surprising ways. A generous, compassionate novel that will leave a warm glow long after the last page has been turned.” —Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of The House on Primrose Pond

“The Things We Wish Were True masterfully blends dark, twisted secrets with a redemptive story about the power of community. As the families of Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, kick off summer at their neighborhood pool, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen peels back the layers of their past and present lives to reveal the underbelly of suburbia. A fabulous page-turner with the ending you want.” —Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son

“The Things We Wish Were True is a story of startling truth revealed through the intricate lives of those we think we know. Profound. Perceptive. Marybeth Whalen knows how to braid together the seen and the unseen in a profound story that startles and enlightens. Readers will eagerly turn every page.” —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author

“In The Things We Wish Were True, Marybeth Whalen has pulled off an impressive feat, an ever-shifting narrative through a neighborhood full of secrets. Each of these characters is compelling and fully realized, and the final twists and reveals left me breathless and, ultimately, at peace. An impressive achievement that you’ll want to put at the top of your to-read list.” —Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden and Fractured

“This novel had me hooked at its premise—a near tragedy unites a group of relative strangers at their community pool—and kept me gripped in its aftermath. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen digs deeply and expertly into the rich and fascinating subject of how well do we really know our neighbors—and the far-reaching impact of a split-second decision on an otherwise predictable day. Suspenseful and emotionally charged, and perfectly steeped in the combustible heat of a North Carolina summer, The Things We Wish Were True is a must-read for any season.” —Erika Marks, author of The Last Treasure

“Written from multiple contrasting perspectives, each with a unique and memorable voice, the various stories are full of depth and intertwined in unpredictable ways. This novel captures the destruction that can be caused by secrets and reveals the mysteries of the story piece by piece, keeping readers intrigued and eager to keep going until the shocking and emotional end.” —RT Book Reviews

“Whalen, director of the celebrated She Reads online book club...has crafted a compelling page-turner populated by characters we’ve all met and know in our everyday lives. Or do we? This book upends the myth of the American dream, examines the secrets that hide beneath the drapes of a typical neighborhood, and, ultimately, provides a compassionate testament to the power of community.” —Library Journal

About the Author

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of five previous novels and speaks to women’s groups around the United States. She is the cofounder of the popular women’s fiction site She Reads and is active in a local writers’ group.

Marybeth and her husband, Curt, have been married for twenty-four years and are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina.

Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel. You can find her at or Read More






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