Two Truths by Dana C. Carver – 2020

If you love books about secret societies,  The holy blood and the holy grail–type conspiracies, ancient treasure hunts, von Däniken–adjacent human origin stories, New Age science and history, and grand unified theories of, well, everything … Two truths is the book for you. A woman and her three daughters set out on different quests to find the ‘truth’, all for different reasons, and possibly searching for different truths. They discover a power that could be the salvation or the end of humanity.

Renee had an experience with a strange (but literarily familiar) man as a teenager that changed the course of her life. She dissented from that course eventually, but had to pay a price, and in doing so fulfilled the prediction of the man: that she would have three daughters. Scott, Renee’s husband, has prepared the eldest daughter, Brett, for a life as part of The Order, an elite exclusive cabal. Sara is a social-media-addicted teenager, slightly goth, naturally dismissive and rebellious. And Hadley, the youngest daughter, floats through life with her head full of bible verses and dreams

Sara bumps into Penny, the daughter of a colleague of her father’s, at the colleague’s funeral. Penny, with whom Sara becomes slightly besotted, warns Sara that their fathers had discovered something that had put them in great danger: her father had been murdered and Sara’s father was next. Dismissing the claims, Sara explains that she is being bundled off to New Zealand: “Do they speak English there?” All but Brett, who is estranged from her family, go to the far-off country.

It is in Aotearoa that Scott dies, but not before realising he has been cultivating the wrong daughter. Sara becomes intent on revenging Scott’s death. Hadley, who is brought back from death at the accident that kills her father, loses her ability to speak and her will to live. Renee takes the girls back to their home in Cincinnati, where Sara searches out Penny. Sara and Penny start on a quest to find out about the deaths of their fathers. Hadley meets up with a mysterious man and eventually “She had found the Truth, and in doing so, had lost her religion”. Renee gets involved with Jonas, a beautiful young basketball player. And Brett becomes more and more embroiled in the machinations of The Order: “Silly game or not, she had no other option but to play it.”

To say anything else about who, or what, everyone is; or, how the quests of the four women come together, would be to spoil the plot. It covers so many familiar tropes it is fascinating to read how they are all woven together. There is the power-hungry triumvirate of The Order, the Catholic Church and the “money launderers” – AKA big business tycoons and their political henchmen. The seemingly inevitable development of hierarchies: of beings, of classes, of blood. The spiritual quests of individuals who fall by the way, as they fail to see that their goal is right before their eyes the whole time. The dangers of actions that are taken “for the greater good” …

Chapters are told from the point of view of different characters, which gives the narrative great texture. From the outset you are in a strange but oddly familiar world – Hadley being accompanied by a ghost and an angel, Renee acting on her attraction to Jonas – who is reminiscent of the biblical Nephilim. The use of biblical texts to prove the ancient use of nuclear technology, and the genetic manipulation of humans. Saint Germain still wandering the streets of Paris. And there are the more sinister themes: older men coaching teenaged girls. The head of the secret society using sex to manipulate his followers: “The only answer is to submit.” The casual suggestion of eugenics.

The mistake the two fathers made was in intending to enlighten the uninitiated masses by informing them of what they had discovered. We learn there are those who are living lives that have lasted for millennia. Those who have lived through many lives – some who remember them, some who can be encouraged to remember them, and those who will always be ignorant. These latter are the Masses. There are parties who think “The Masses pose a threat”, and there are parties who think the Masses are our only hope: “This is the world I love, the world I see every day and that most people walk by without noticing. If you do not love what the world is in its simplest form, you will not be able to save it.”

There is whimsy to some of the writing: “The countertop was bright orange and the curtains were yellow and pulled back with a piece of lace. On the wall was a black clock shaped like a cat, with eyes that rolled back and forth with each tick.” However, the themes are dark: the attraction of suicide – Ernest, Renee’s initial awakener in this life, commits suicide; Hadley must be constantly encouraged to focus on life, not death. And insanity is always hovering, as a place to hide – Renee “how easy to blame delusion.”

The two truths of the title refer to an empirical truth and a transcendental truth – and the confusion as to which is the more powerful, the more dangerous. The paradox flows through the text – one of the ‘higher level’ beings is always cooking, gardening, or making things from wood. Humans are cast as both the playthings of the gods, and those some gods love so much they can’t desert them. The story works its way towards a great reunion as the climax – and there is a challenge – which way will be chosen? Power and exclusion, or the realisation of connectedness and opportunity for all?  

I read this book as COP26 is being held in Glasgow. Once again, the world’s leaders are discussing how to address the ecological and climatic disasters the ‘money launderers’ have wrought. It would be good to think when asked the question posed in The two truths – “And do you know what each of us will choose?”, they would choose the better path. Yet as Renee observes of herself and Jonas, they have become aware of so much “Yet we stroll on an autumn evening as if nothing is different”. An interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable read.

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