Synopses & Reviews
Tracing the fifteen-year fallout of a toxic high school rumor, a riveting, astonishingly original debut novel about the power of stories — and who gets to tell them
2015. A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she can’t tell: the story of, as she puts it, “the things that happened while I was asleep.”
1999. Nick Brothers and his lacrosse teammates return for their senior year at their wealthy Maryland high school as the reigning state champions. They’re on top of the world — until two of his friends drive a passed-out girl home from of the team’s “legendary” parties, and a rumor about what happened in the backseat spreads through the town like wildfire.
The boys deny the allegations, and, eventually, the town moves on. But not everyone can. Nick descends into alcoholism, and Alice builds a life in fits and starts, underestimating herself and placing her trust in the wrong people. When she finally gets the opportunity to confront the past she can’t remember — but which has nevertheless shaped her life — will she take it?
An inventive and breathtaking exploration of a woman finding her voice in the wake of trauma, True Story is part psychological thriller, part fever dream, and part timely comment on sexual assault, power, and the very nature of truth. Ingeniously constructed and full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final pages, it marks the debut of a singular and daring new voice in fiction.
“True Story is a brilliant achievement — original, powerful, and playful, flipping formats like a kaleidoscope whose fractals rearrange with each twist until the truth comes into final focus. But beyond its formal daring and assurance, it’s a thoroughly engrossing read. I may have held my breath through the whole thing, and I will think about it for a long time. This is a shapeshifting, sneak attack of a novel that leaves a permanent imprint.” Lauren Acampora, author of The Paper Wasp
“True Story is a spectacular first novel — innovative, convincing, daring, suspenseful, heart-wrenching, and altogether astonishing. Kate Reed Petty is a force. What a beautifully unified, richly imagined, and skillfully composed work of literary art. I hope it wins the prizes Petty deserves.” Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“Brilliant — a darkly gripping enigma of a book. Petty boldly plays with genre and voice to tell the story of an assault and a rumor that shapes the trajectory of a woman’s life. The result is a beautifully prismatic and profound meditation on victims and perpetrators, lies and truth, and above all the dangers and powers of storytelling and what it means to finally claim your voice.” Mona Awad, author of Bunny
“Kate Reed Petty is such a gifted writer that she can make even a college application essay feel utterly heartbreaking. And in True Story, she has given us a riveting and totally innovative novel about the power of lies to shape the truth, a book built like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle whose picture becomes thrillingly clear only after you’ve locked in the very last piece.” Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
“I literally cannot believe this book exists. A mind-blowing, page-turning, un-put-downable, heartwarming, empathetic, formally inventive horror suspense thriller, with a life-affirming and timely feminist message? What? This would be an amazing fifteenth novel for a person to have written and it is Kate Reed Petty’s first one. What an incredible talent!” Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot
“Spellbinding... Petty leaps from genre to genre with dizzying velocity... to show the way trauma works on us, how it shapes our lived experience... tantalizing us with the ‘truth’ about what really happened to Alice... even as the term itself feels increasingly useless, deceptive.” Megan Abbott, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Kate Reed Petty has been recognized with a Narrative magazine 30 Below Award, as well as grants and scholarships from the Robert Deutsch Foundation, The Mount, Bloedel Reserve, and the Sewanee Writers Conference. Her short fiction has been published in Electric Literature, American Short Fiction, Blackbird, Ambit, Nat. Brut, and Los Angeles Review of Books, and she has a master of letters from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She lives in Baltimore.