The truths that matter: A review of Truth Like the Sun

  • A woman walks through the streets of Seattle in 2010.

    Theo Stroomer

In Truth Like the Sun, Washington novelist Jim Lynch straddles two Seattles: the little-known Western town in the 1960s, on the brink of exploding into a world-class city, and the modern Seattle of four decades later, at the height of the dot-com boom. He braids these incarnations of the city into an intricate narrative of politics and place, revolving around two characters brought together by their ambitions.

Roger Morgan, the mastermind behind Seattle's 1962 World's Fair, is young and stubbornly determined to make his town "the capital of the world." Nearly 40 years later, Morgan meets Helen Gulanos, an equally driven journalist, who is working on a dull assignment writing World's Fair retrospectives. But when Roger, at the age of 70, announces he's running for mayor, Helen starts digging deep in search of his past and of Seattle's own seedy beginnings. 

Truth Like the Sun comes together in alternating chapters that bridge the decades, connecting the past and present in ways that become clearer after Helen finds Roger Morgan's name linked to a younger, rowdier Seattle fraught with real estate scandals, gambling and corrupt law enforcement. Journalistic ambition and newsroom pressure spur Helen on, but Roger warns that her quest for the truth will, in the end, prove futile, telling her, "You could line up a whole bunch of truths about anyone and still miss the ones that really matter."

The key question facing Helen is an old and haunting one: What is truth? Lynch leaves just enough of it unexplained in his novel to tease readers around the next plot turn. But he makes them work hard, much as Helen does, to keep the facts straight.

In the end, the reader is likely to find the effort rewarding, even if the full truth about the past -- as it concerns both Roger and his city -- remains elusive, never fully exposed to the bright light of a blazing sun.  The truth Lynch crafts in Truth Like the Sun is beautiful in its murkiness, like the sun you'd expect to see through clouds on a misty Seattle morning.

Douglas Tooley
Douglas Tooley
Nov 28, 2012 02:28 PM
Moving to Seattle just before the Grunge era in 1986 I would end up on this same quest and I can't wait to read this book and double check my own misty conclusions. There is really only one other book that gets to the nub of this question - 'Cops, Crooks, and Politicians' by former Seattle and State Police Chief Neil Moloney covers the subject, but mostly between the lines.

The crucial year is 1974, when Washington State appointees were both the best and worst of the Nixon Administration, former moderate Republican Gubernatorial staffer Ted Bundy and law school cohort of the outgoing Governor and current US Attorney went on a rampage, and King County (greater Seattle) Prosecutor Norm Maleng made his name by muffing the corruption suit - a case discussed in 'Cops, Crooks' but a name conspicuously absent.