Review: 'Truth Like The Sun'

In Truth Like The Sun, author Jim Lynch traces the growth of Seattle after it hosted the 1962 World's Fair. The novel deals with themes of idealism versus pragmatism and high idealism versus raw ambition.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Nineteen sixty-two he was a pivotal year for Seattle. Featuring the newly opened Space Needle, the city played host to a World's Fair. The new novel "Truth Like The Sun," from writer Jim Lynch, tells the story of that fair and of the city that rose with it.

Alan Cheuse has our review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The title comes from - believe it - Elvis. Yes, Elvis, whom Lynch includes in a cameo role in this even-handed, entertaining, and ultimately enlightening novel about American boosterism and corruption in a city on the rise. Elvis visits the World's Fair to make a movie, and the man with the idea for the Space Needle, a genial if somewhat mysterious entrepreneur named Roger Morgan, shows him around a usually rainy Seattle and they drift into a conversation about the meaning of life.

Truth is like the sun, isn't it, Elvis says, you can shut it out for a time but it ain't going away.

Others cameo appearances at the fair - Count Basie, then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, poet Theodore Roethke. But the main actor is Morgan himself and when, nearly 40 years after his conversation with Elvis, he decides to run for mayor, investigative journalist Helen Galanos, a transplant from the Midwest, gets on the case.

Novelist Lynch alternates chapters between the opening of the fair and the run-up to the mayoral election And as we learn more and more about both the intriguing Roger Moran and the enterprising reporter, Helen Galanos, we begin to root for both of them.

This serious but charming rather old-fashioned sort of book about complicated folks in the midst of life's struggles is just big enough to embrace a number of important themes and topics - the making of the fair, the rise and fall of big city journalism, local politics, the details of history - and just small enough to make all of this quite intimate and engaging.

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CORNISH: The book is called "Truth Like The Sun" by Jim Lynch. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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