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Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite
Willie Baker isn't a stranger to the streets because he has been living the life of a street person for years. The first time he met Ann, a bag lady, was in the sixties. Then, she shared a story about her former life, a story that took place in 1943 at Heron Lake in Michigan, a place that she ran away from and never looked back. Willie never forgot her story, and when he meets up with her again twenty years later on the streets of New York, he asks for the story again. This time, though, parts of it are different, and she leaves out her final day at Heron Lake, the day that changed her life forever. Determined to know what happened to Ann, Willie decides to travel to Michigan, in the hope of meeting some of the people she mentions.
"Separate Truth" by Mike McManus paints a picture so vivid that I felt as though I was right there with the characters. I could see the people and the places through the author's storytelling. The voices of the characters seemed so realistic that I felt as if I was reading about real people. I could easily imagine Ann as a nineteen year old girl in the fall of 1943, excited to spend a few weeks at Lake Huron with her grandmother, only to have her grandmother get upset when she learns that Ann is planning on marrying a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. To teach Ann a lesson she abandons her, and when something horrendous happens it is the caretaker, Oscar Murdock, who takes Ann in. As Ann's story unfolds, the mystery of why she wound up as a bag lady kept me reading; after all I kept hoping that her grandmother would do the right thing. Ann was such a strong character, but we see how even a strong character can be pushed to the breaking point, and what happened to her that final day pushed her over the edge. "Separate Truth" is such an emotionally charged story that I found myself shedding a few tears for not only Ann but those that loved her as well. Mike McManus does a fantastic job of pulling the reader back to 1943, back to a simpler time, with beautifully descriptive words that bring not only the setting to life, but the characters as well. With plenty of twists and turns that I could never have imagined, but made perfect sense! A story that pulled me in and wouldn't let go, emotionally riveting, a story that had me believing in fate and second chances!