36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
I very much enjoyed Jim Lynch's two previous novels, Border Songs and The Highest Tide, so it was with delight that I picked up his newest, Truth Like the Sun. All three of the books are set in the Pacific Northwest, and Lynch's affection for the region clearly shows in his writing. While I saw some loose similarities in the first two books, this third is, in some ways quite different, and that's ok.
Truth Like the Sun alternates between 1962 and 2001. In 1962 we see a young Roger Morgan cheerleading, organizing and managing the Seattle World's Fair, including the construction of Seattle's now-iconic Space Needle. In 2001, Roger decides to run for mayor of Seattle, and he draws the interest of Helen Gulanos, a newspaper reporter newly arrived in Seattle along with her young son. As the story develops, we learn more about both Roger and Helen, both of whom have more in their backgrounds than is immediately evident.
As is expected by now, any political campaign draws out the muckrakers, and while Roger is presented as a sympathetic character, he also has done things that could be questionable. As Helen pursues the story, she uncovers more and more detail, making her wonder if Roger is really the nice and honest person his image suggests. The reader wonders too - Lynch has a gift for creating characters that seem so real, you're tempted to go look up details to see if they really existed. (In this case, they exist only in Lynch's imagination.) Lynch sprinkles the 1962 segments with "cameos" by real-life celebrities of the time, including LBJ, Edward R Murrow, and even a delightful scene where Roger takes Elvis Presley to a back-room card game in town.
In 2001, while Roger is considered "Mr. Seattle", he has never run for office before and the realities of a political contest take a toll on him. Helen's story collects more and more dirt, but it is unclear how many of her sources are telling the truth and how many have a vendetta against Morgan - he does have enemies, as, it turns out, does Gulanos.
When I reached the end of the book, I sat back and contemplated for a while. Lynch's novels never have "tidy" endings - yes, the major plot is resolved, but his characters usually end up in a state of transition, not closure. And so it is with Truth Like the Sun. Many of your questions will be answered, but not all of them. No, this is not setting up for a sequel, it's just the way life is, and that's one of many reasons why I enjoy Jim Lynch's books so much.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Somehow I do not expect a book title to be inspired by a quote from Elvis Presley, "Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't going away." This choice of title says a lot about Jim Lynch and about the book itself.
Lynch's two previous novels created an expectation that Lynch will produce something unusual, and he has succeeded. The story switches between two time periods---1962 and 2001. The 1962 track portrays the excitement of the Seattle World's Fair and Roger Morgan, the "charismatic young mastermind" who led the project to its spectacular success. In 2001 young reporter Helen Galanos is writing a routine story for the fair's 40th anniversary and begins to find evidence that the revered eminence grise Morgan may have been involved in high-level big-money corruption. This promises to be especially big news when Morgan announces at his 70th birthday party that he has decided to run for mayor. The story unfolds with Helen doggedly pursuing what might be the dream story of a young reporter's career, while Roger equally tenaciously tries to run a successful political campaign, which certainly requires avoidance of any hint of scandal. Both of them encounter ethical challenges. Helen must decide just how far she is willing to go for her story; Roger must decide how much he is willing to do to stop her. Clearly it will be impossible to have truth, justice, and a "fair" outcome for all parties. Who is going to win? I thought the story dragged a bit in the middle, but Lynch's denouement avoids clichés and is both disturbing and satisfying.
The best character in Truth Like the Sun is Seattle! If you can read this book without wanting to visit, or maybe even move, there, something is wrong with you! I have visited Seattle only a few times, but I confirmed the accuracy of some of the landmarks Lynch mentions, such as the Spanish Ballroom in the Olympic Hotel, and locals say Lynch's picture is accurate, as well as clearly affectionate. The two main human characters, Roger Morgan and Helen Gulanos, are a bit less satisfactory. Roger is a very interesting guy. His people skills are clearly a source of a great deal of his success, but he never marries, despite several engagements. He clearly drinks too much, gambles, and sleeps with other men's wives, but he has a commitment to the city he loves that we must admire. Is there a disconnect between Morgan's abilities and values in his social interactions and in his more intimate relations? It is certainly true that real people can be inconsistent, but I needed more clues to help me understand him. Helen Gulanos is a dedicated journalist facing up to tough ethical problems, but despite attempts to humanize her by details like the addition of a precocious little son, I never quite figured out what made her tick fundamentally. Both have a hidden secret in their earlier lives that can cause them problems if revealed in the present, and those aspects of the book seemed a bit artificial, especially the story of Morgan's early life (I'm trying hard to avoid spoilers here!).
What initially hooked me in Truth Like the Sun was the wonderful writing. Reviewers often mention Lynch's journalistic background, which may have contributed to his keen observation and ability to describe places and people interestingly. What I liked best about the writing, however, was the clever turns of phrase, such as his description of Seattle as "a city so short on history it's almost all future anyway" or when a character marvels at "thirty-five countries helping us throw a fair in some city they still think rhymes with beetle."
The quality of the writing, the evocative sense of place, and the well-done ending add up to a very satisfying read. Lynch has once more produced a work that is out of the ordinary and worthy of your time.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I've just finished my Amazon Vine advance copy of Jim Lynch's "Truth Like The Sun". It's an interesting book, although I don't think it's on a level with Border Songs (Vintage Contemporaries). In this look at Seattle during the World's Fair, for me there were quite a few "Aha!" moments, in particular, when the Masonic Nile Temple on Lower Queen Anne is forced to move(to Edmonds), and one really memorable "Whoa! I'd forgotten!!" moment. That's when JFK is supposed to be in Seattle for the last day of the Fair, but begs off, due to an "upper respiratory virus", which turned into a bad case of Cuban Missile Crisis. Deep in my memories, I dimly remembered scandals about graft, payoffs, and other high-jinks starring the Seattle PD and various public figures, and this brought those days back. However, I feel that like the profile/expose article that figures so strongly through this book, it may have been rushed to publication. Like Seattle 50(OMG!!)years ago, Century 21, The Seattle World's Fair is dominating our local media, and it's nice to revisit those days, when at least during daylight, it was safe to walk from 8th & Pike down to Pike Place, and then all the way down 1st Avenue to what the trendy newcomers, bandstanders, and carpetbaggers call SODO.
My bottom line: this is a book to request at your local public library, but not to bother buying until prices drop, which they surely shall.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2012
Truth Like the Sun, Jim Lynch's great new book, is timely, compelling, and emotionally satisfying. In 1962, the city of Seattle is poised for the excitement of hosting the World's Fair, and the Space Needle is the crowning jewel of this event. Young Roger Morgan is the so-called "King of the Fair," as he pushed the city's leaders and financial supporters to throw their weight behind it, and he allegedly designed the Space Needle on a cocktail napkin. He has the world in his hands, with entertainers, world leaders, even married women marveling at what he has created, and he is proud of the changes he was responsible for bringing to Seattle. Yet as he revels in the glory of the event, he is still looking for something more.
Flash forward to 2001. Seattle is reeling from the bursting of the tech bubble, and crime and incivility have taken hold in the city. Seventy-year-old Roger Morgan, who used his fame from the World's Fair to gain influence as an adviser to countless politicians, surprises the city by declaring his candidacy for mayor, running against an incumbent he had once assisted. Many in the city rush to embrace this one-time king and fringe candidate, while others scramble to figure out exactly who Roger Morgan is, including Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Helen Gulanos. Driven both by her need to understand Morgan and what he stands for, as well as her desire to write a Pulitzer-worthy story, she throws her all into investigating every corner of Morgan's life, from 1962 until the present. And as she finds herself drawn by his magnetism, she's also drawn by what she finds out.
The book switches between 1962 and 2001, from Roger's early glory days to his seeking once last fling with fame and power. Lynch does a fantastic job weaving the two narratives, and I found myself in the same quandary as Helen--I wanted to know more about what makes Morgan tick but I was also afraid of what might be uncovered. In this era of news being driven as much by innuendo as fact, I found this book tremendously timely, but at its heart this is the story of a man motivated more by his desire to make his city the center of the world, one who gets caught up in the glory of doing so. I really enjoyed this book a great deal. Lynch is a fantastic writer and all of his books have captivated me in similar ways.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin gave Truth Like the Sun a big shout-out in her end of the year wrap-up of ten books she enjoyed in 2012. On the strength of that, I decided to read it, even though I have yet to read a good novel about newspapers and journalists. Most recently, I was disappointed in Tom Rachman's newspaper novel The Imperfectionists, but I still liked it better than this wooden account of Seattle circa 1962 juxtaposed with Seattle circa 2001.
Overall, this novel feels like interesting material in search of a story. The newspaper characters are almost laughably stock: the pusillanimous editor who fears offending the local bigwigs, the solitary young crusading journalist, the rumpled and overweight "true" journalist whose time has come and gone. The subject of the newspaper's investigative journalism, Roger Morgan, impresario of the Seattle World's Fair, is a slightly more complex character, at least when he's not in the middle of one of the boring set pieces in which he surveys the fair and/or greets a visiting dignitary.
In fact, you'll want to bypass some of the descriptive passages altogether, unless you live in Seattle and enjoy the touches of local color. This is a novel in which hot mugs "steam," nursing homes smell (surprise!) of disinfectant and other things, and the young reporter's hair (one of her physical assets) is compared, rather amazingly, to an oak tree.
Maslin called Truth Like the Sun "a flat-out great read with the spirit of a propulsive, character-driven 1970s movie." Well, yes, there are flat-out great reads about city life and politics that do make great movies, although it isn't this particular novel. Another author comes to mind, himself a great chronicler of the sort of police corruption at the center of Truth Like the Sun. His books make great movies, too, like Mystic River. However this writer lives in Boston and his name is Dennis Lehane. Perhaps he could be convinced to write a newspaper novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2012
I read his first book, a fantastic coming of age upon the mud flats of Puget Sound. His second book was a romp across the US-Canadian Border. And now Jim Lynch brings it all home in his latest work Truth Like The Sun. Deftly jumping back and forth from 1962 to 2002, from World Fair dreams to Dot Com crashing realities, Lynch has crafted a truly engaging story.
Lynch's skills as a journalist keep the writing tight and moving. Every page is spiced with his impish satire. I laughed throughout,. His characters seem to be downright 3-D-real!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When I first started this beautifully written, impeccably paced novel, I was skeptical at best. The first couple of chapters didn't grip me, perhaps partly because I've only been to--or rather through--Seattle once a long time ago, and the book couldn't have been set anywhere else. But as the story started to unfold and the characters developed, I was hooked. Combining the perennially compelling worlds of politics and journalism, with large doses of history thrown in, it was a fast, compelling read that will probably appeal to connoisseurs of literary fiction as well as readers of more popular fiction.
Helen Gulanos is new to town, working as a reporter for the foundering Seattle Post-Intelligencer and relegated to dull, largely inconsequential stories, when she stumbles on a biggie--Roger Morgan, nearly 70 and a legend thanks to his central role in the 1962 World's Fair, has decided to run for mayor. The book skips back and forth in time, between April and October, 1962, when Morgan made a name for himself, and April and September 2001, when Helen is trying to do the same for herself. (Interestingly, Lynch uses present tense for the chapters set in 1962 and past tense for the ones in 2001.) The stories are naturally intertwined, as Helen investigates the glib, charming Morgan, who has left very few tracks for a local legend, and contends with some secrets of her own. Both are largely sympathetic characters, but it's never entirely clear what the truth is. The tension mounts as Helen closes in on Morgan's past in the run-up to the primary and Morgan's people turn up some dirt on her.
Lynch, who has a journalism background, clearly knows the world he writes about. Seattle is as much a character as the humans who inhabit his pages, and he conveys the newspaper business with details and insights only an insider could provide. Given his depiction of politics behind the scenes, one can assume he covered his share of politics as well (and indeed, his bio states that he worked for columnist Jack Anderson at one point). And he has clearly done his homework, bringing 1962 as vividly to life as a season of "Mad Men." But it is ultimately the characters and the plot that drive Truth Like the Sun, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in an intelligent diversion. (It would make a great movie.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It is 1962, the opening of The World's Fair in Seattle. Roger Morgan, the big man on campus, so to speak, was the architect of the Space Needle. The Space Needle, is synonymous to Seattle, just as is the Fish Market. Roger wines land dines many celebrities in the dining room of the Space Needle, a revolving dining room, with some of the most expensive food to be found.
In 2001, Helen Gulanos arrives in Seattle to work on one of the newspapers, The Post-IntellIngencer, or the PI. She was recruited from the East with big promises that fail to unfold. She has with her, her son, Elias. Elias could be the most understanding and resilient of children. No father, and living in an apartment near the overpass, because it is convenient to the day school.
Here we have these two disparate people. Each from a different era, and the story is told from both. Every other chapter follows Roger in his quest in the 60's, and then his quest for mayor in the 2000's. Helen plays an integral part in the race for mayor as she digs into Rogers's past history. Roger for his part is a charming, intelligent man. They like each other, even though they are on opposite sides of Seattle in many ways. What Helen finds will determine the results of the primary. The other two candidates aren't much to speak about. How and what Helen finds ends up defining her and Roger. But, then, is the truth ever really the story?
This is a remarkable book that drew me in from the start. The story gives facts and figures of Seattle, you will not find elsewhere. We get a feel for this city and why people love it. The mountain, the seafood, the ocean, the buildings that rise out to face the sky, and the beauty of the city at sunset. Rogers's city, and now it is Helens to explore. Each character explored fully and their inner most thoughts and secrets revealed. Terrific!
HighlynRecommended. prisrob 05-25-12
Border Songs (Vintage Contemporaries)
The Highest Tide: A Novel
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Living in Seattle, I first got introduced to Jim Lynch when "The Highest Tide" came out and subsequently saw a local stage production of the book. I loved his writing, his passion and precision when writing about the Pacific Northwest and have followed his career ever since.
"Truth Like the Sun" is his timely new novel (this being the 50th anniversary) grounded in the 1962 World's Fair, a coming out party for the city of Seattle. Lynch interweaves a fictional story around Roger Morgan, fictional head of the World's Fair, and Helen Gulanos, investigative reporter for the Seattle P-I in 2001, 39 years later in 2001 when Roger decides to run for mayor of Seattle in his early 70's.
Lynch alternates chapters between 1962 and 2001, slowly unfolding details of Morgan's oversight of the World's Fair amidst Seattle's underbelly of graft and corruption and his mayoral campaign dogged by journalist Gulanos as she attempts to dig up dirt on Morgan and his past. The real beauty of Lynch's writing are the small details ---- he creates memorable interactions and dialogue between Morgan and LJB, Elvis and Count Basie as they come to Seattle to celebrate the fair against a backdrop of extreme tension between the US and USSR culminating in the Cuban Missle Crisis. Morgan's mayoral run 39 years later takes place in the months preceding 9/11, Seattle now a "grown-up" city is recovering from the boom and bust of the dot-com bubble. As the bubble bursts, and Morgan sets his sights on public office, the city fondly recalls its past glory through his campaign, while others are dredging up the sordid past.
Lynch superbly weaves through past and present to construct a paean to a city, the good and bad, that forged its unique identity. Lynch doesn't attempt to wrap any neat bows on the contradictions and characters at the center of this novel, leaving the reader to interpret the shades of grey underlying "Truth Like the Sun".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In "Truth Like the Sun" author Jim Lynch describes Seattle as a city "so short on history it's mostly all future anyway." His novel takes a close, gilded look at Seattle at the time it was shaping itself to be reborn as the Emerald City. It's a big, exuberant story, one that Lynch tells with passion. Seattle is clearly his city and he wants us to admire it as he does.
The book cuts back and forth between two timeframes separated by four decades. The dual stories and two opposing main characters eventually collide and then connect. The first story takes place in 1962 during the Seattle World's Fair, which drew nearly 10 million visitors between April and October. The second unfolds in 2001 during the primary campaign to elect a new Seattle Mayor.
Roger Morgan is the fictional candidate, a larger-than-life presence, "Mr. Seattle," who breathes the life into the both past and present. In 1962 over late-night drinks "the silver-tongued P.R. Hercules" was the mover who sketched the idea for the Space Needle on a cocktail napkin then raised the financing by attracting private investors and finally oversaw construction of the iconic 605-foot tower with the revolving restaurant and its eye-popping views of Puget Sound and Mt. Rainer.
After serving four decades as Seattle's most prominent civic booster, Morgan now 70 throws his hat in the political ring by mounting a primary bid in the city's 2001 mayoral contest. The time is right and he's running now he tells his supporters while he still has the "energy and most of my original joints and organs."
Helen Gulanos, his antagonist, is in the room to hear Morgan's surprise announcement. She's new to Seattle, she's best at being tenacious and she's new on the enterprise desk at the Post-Intelligencer. This is her story, too. As she covers the primary she digs into corruption and uncovers a past that Morgan would like to conceal.
Gulanos is attempting to build a reputation. Morgan is hoping to protect his. Both are very intriguing ultimately very appealing characters. She can be dangerous and aggressive but also strangely charmed by Morgan. He, on the other hand, is immensely charming and able to massage the truth without even once telling a lie.
During the fair, Morgan spends most of his evenings escorting and entertaining an assortment of visiting world leaders and celebrities. Elvis Presley visited on day 144 and the King's offhand remark lends the novel its title: "Truth is like the sun, isn't it. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't going away."
Vice President Lyndon Johnson visits and grabs Morgan's attention with his absurdly cornpone remarks, his questions ("Any octopus in these lakes?") and the acutely hilarious information about his "swollen right testicle," which untreated may prevent him from flying directly back to Washington.
Lynch, a former Seattle journalist, has written a political novel that is also about newspapering and the challenging craft of creating the stories that describe a life and nail the truth. Cataclysmic world events anchor each of the dual stories, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. As time races and the story speeds forward, we're caught up, we're questioning whether the reporter is going to succeed in derailing the candidate or if the candidate is going to prevail and protect his integrity. It's a tight mayoral race, and "Truth Like the Sun" becomes a guessing game that's a gripping read from start to finish.