Thursday, August 5, 2021

Gwen Florio's "The Truth of It All"

Gwen Florio grew up in a farmhouse filled with books and a ban on television. After studying English at the University of Delaware, she began a thirty-plus year career in journalism that has taken her around the country and to more than a dozen countries, including several conflict zones.

Her first novel in the Lola Wick mystery series, Montana won the Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction and the High Plains Book Award, and was a finalist for the Shamus Award, an International Thriller Award and a Silver Falchion Award. She has since released four other books in the Lola Wick series.

Recent novels include the standalone Silent Hearts, and Best Laid Plans, the first installment of a new mystery series.

Here Florio dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Truth of It All:
The Truth of It All, about a young public defender trying her first big case, has a wealth of strong female characters – not just the protagonist, Julia Geary, but her partner in the public defender’s office, Claudette Greene, and her mother-in-law, Beverly Sullivan. In addition, the high school girl who’s the target of the sexual assault case around which the book revolves goes from being a cardboard character in many people’s minds -- i.e, The Victim – to finding her own strength in a very notable way.

For that reason, I’d love to see a female director. Chloe Zhao immediately comes to mind, not only for her Oscar-winning work on Nomadland, but for an earlier film, The Rider, that deftly the nuances of ethnicity and class in the West – two issues central to this book. I also liked Kelly Reichardt’s film, Certain Women, that examined similar issues and that was shot in Montana. And, given the case involved in the book, Emerald Fennell immediately comes to mind because of Promising Young Woman. Such a wealth of directors!

As for actors, Kristen Stewart (of Reichardt’s Certain Women in addition to the Twilight movies) has a wonderfully wary quality that’s perfect for Julia, who’s negotiating the difficult terrain of being a new widow and suddenly single mother as a result, with a challenging case that brings the wrath of the community upon her.

All hail Regina King as Claudette, Julia’s take-no-shit partner in the public defender’s office. As a black woman in a largely white community, the unwelcome responsibility of explaining racial realities to privileged white people is thrust upon Claudette – who embraces the fact that sometimes her very presence makes people uncomfortable. King shines in every role and she’d kick ass as Claudette.

Julia’s exceedingly difficult mother-in-law, Beverly, became one of my favorite characters as I was writing the book. Jean Smart is so engagingly sly; I’d love to see the smiling undertone she’d bring to Beverly’s strait-laced demeanor.

Marlo Kelly’s performance in the television adaptation of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me blew me away – she'd be perfect as Ana.

For Julia’s client Sami Mohammed, Mena Massoud (Aladdin) has the wide-eyed quality that I think would let him believably play a high school student (somewhat older because of his refugee status) that also would play into the uncertainty that comes with trying to navigate a new culture and language.

Finally, Karl Schmidt as a local white supremacist plays a small but key part in the book. Ed Harris would bring just the right blend of menace and surprising humanity to that role.
Visit Gwen Florio's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Gwen Florio & Nell.

My Book, the Movie: Silent Hearts.

My Book, The Movie: Best Laid Plans.

--Marshal Zeringue