Separate Truth

Fiction - General
213 Pages
Reviewed on 05/27/2013
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I grew up in Southern California in the 60s, a very exciting and somewhat turbulent time. After one year of college I entered the US Army and served in Germany for two years. While most of my friends were fighting in Southeast Asia in the early 70s, I was posing a threat to the Soviets, at times almost on their doorstep. Since they never invaded Germany, at least not while I was there, I must surmise that they took my menacing proximity not lightly.
After my hitch in the Army, I met my beautiful wife, Ingrid, and together we started our family. A couple of years later our one and only (and perfect) child was born. Lisa Christine McManus (now Lisa Schomas) - an associate producer on the TV show

    Book Review

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!

Jack Magnus

"Separate Truth" is written from the perspective of Willie, a homeless man living in New York City. He runs an unofficial homeless shelter in a vacant building with the financial help of the building's wealthy owner. One day, Willie sees Ann, a face from his past in San Francisco. They are both older now as it has been 20 years since they last spent some time together but he is still haunted by the story she told him about her experiences at the log cabin owned by her family on Heron Lake in Michigan. Her story began in late autumn in 1943. Ann is an orphan and lives with her aunt and uncle. When her grandmother suggests a week's holiday at Heron Lake, Ann welcomes the diversion and a chance to revisit the family cabin. She is also looking forward to seeing Oscar, the caretaker, who taught her to fish and water-ski, and was a friend and companion. Ann has a secret that she guards closely - a marriage proposal from her soldier-sweetheart, Patrick, who is not from the class of people her grandmother would approve of. Does she sell her obedience or listen to her heart? Willie is always wondering about the missing parts of Ann's tale and hopes that she'll finally finish it now that they have reunited in New York.

I was immediately drawn into Ann's story. Michael J. McManus is a masterful storyteller. His prose is simple, yet elegant, and his characters come to life on the pages. The wilderness descriptions and winter scenes on Lake Heron are beautifully rendered, and the working partnership between Ann and Oscar is quite memorable. Another important aspect of "Separate Truth" is the author's treatment of the tendency of people to pigeonhole others based on appearance, family or economic status, as Granny Williams does regarding Patrick, and as many of us do with respect to the homeless men and bag ladies seen in almost any town or city in this country. Each of us has a story, a Separate Truth. This is a wonderful and moving tale that is well worth reading.

Christine Nguyen

"Separate Truth" is the story of how a bum’s life is transformed when he meets another bag lady in the streets and tells him her life story, which quickly captivates him and lures him to a path that he was destined to take. He meets her again years later and hears a longer version of her story that takes him on a journey that will transform his life. He hears about the bag lady as a young girl named Ann who is disinherited from her rich, but controlling grandmother, Helen Williams, when she marries a man beneath her in social status, class, and wealth. Ann is abandoned at her grandmother’s lake house in Heron Lake to fend for herself, but an old family friend and caretaker, Oscar, takes her in. From there, Ann’s life becomes a series of misfortunes that will eventually drive her to the streets.

Michael J. McManus weaves a wonderful tale of twists and turns that leads the readers to care for the characters in the book as he brings them to life with a sensitivity and generosity that warms the spirit. Characters like Oscar and Alma are the backbone of the storyline and I enjoyed reading about them immensely. I especially loved the unique and creative premise about two homeless people sharing their life stories and being destined to play a role in each other’s lives. This book made me smile in many places and made me wish I could live in a cabin in the woods like Heron Lake.

Trudi LoPreto

A bag lady (Ann) and a street bum (Willy) met on the streets of New York on a cold wintry day in 1990. Willy takes Ann to a warehouse he uses as a homeless shelter. They spend the night with Ann telling most of her life story. Ann’s story transports us twenty years back in time to 1943, to Lake Herron, Michigan. Ann is visiting Granny Williams in her big estate home on the lake. Granny Williams is rich and demanding and Ann is young and in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Patrick Michael O’Connor. When Ann refuses to give up Patrick, Granny deserts her and disowns her. Anne has many struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies as she learns to survive on her own with the help of Oscar, the caretaker and long-time friend, and Alma, the owner of the local general store. When morning comes Willy finds that Ann is gone and he has not heard how the story ends. He feels driven to go to Heron Lake and find out the ending for himself.

“Separate Truth” is a wonderful story. It will make you cry and laugh and make you furious but it will keep you spellbound and reading way into the night. Michael McManus has written a book that emotionally attached me to each character. I was immediately pulled into the story and I was really sorry to finish and leave my new friends behind. This is a five star romantic tear jerker with a touch of suspense. It would also make an award winning movie. I advise all readers looking for a good story with a happy ending and lots of excitement in between not to miss out on reading “Separate Truth”.

Maria Beltran

"Separate Truth" is narrated by one of its protagonists, Willie Baker, who is a homeless bum with a hippie past. When he meets Ann, an elderly bag lady in New York, he becomes fascinated with her life story. She tells him of her privileged life in Michigan and how her parents died together in an accident. Left to the care of her rich grandmother, she falls in love with Patrick, a man below her class. It is during the Second World war and Patrick is in Europe fighting for the Allied forces. Abandoned by her grandmother for agreeing to marry Patrick, Ana's life will take extraordinary twists and turns until she ends up living in the streets as a bag lady. Ana never tells Willie the complete story and when he goes on a quest to find out for himself, the novel will take a twist that no one would have suspected.

Once again, Michael McManus succeeds in writing a novel that is not only entertaining but also heart-wrenching. "Separate Truth" is a story that inspires because it offers love, hope and redemption, in the midst of a seemingly desperate situation. The author's descriptive style flows quite smoothly and brings the reader to the beauty and tranquility of a ranch in northern Michigan. It is also a tribute to his fertile imagination that this narrative takes countless twists and turns without veering too far away from the main plot. The story is set in the period 1940 to 1990's, and offers us a glimpse of history and how it affects the lives of ordinary people. McManus's characters are quite defined as villains and heroes, perhaps with the exception of the grandmother, and you would think that the plot will be predictable. As I read the book, however, I find myself unable to guess the numerous conflicts and denouement that make this story very interesting.