True Story: offbeat debut about an alleged sexual assault

Kate Reed Petty’s genre-hopping novel focuses on lives altered by a true-or-false story

Kate Reed Petty is a clever writer with a sardonic wit

Kate Reed Petty is a clever writer with a sardonic wit

“But the story is mine only as the victim owns the prosecution, or the whale the harpoon.” The importance of owning the narrative in the wake of a sexual assault is the timely focus of Kate Reed Petty’s debut novel. Featuring an eccentric mix of different genres – literary fiction, horror, psychological thriller – the fragmented structure of True Story mirrors the content, exploring the fractured remains of one girl’s life and reputation following an allegation of sexual assault.

Multiple narrators and perspectives alert us to the fallibility of storytelling, the blurring of fact and fiction, the unreliability of memory, and the power of a group when it comes to swaying opinion. A short prologue from the victim, Alice – now living in Barcelona in her late 20s – shows the far-reaching effects of an assault that took place during her high school days in Baltimore.

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