“Jonah’s hands are still now,” teenage narrator Liv says of her older brother, Jonah, on the first page of the novel-in-verse Three Things I Know Are True. Jonah was once a daredevil, but that was before he and his friend Clay played with a gun they didn’t know was loaded. Now Jonah needs around-the-clock nursing care, which leaves Liv without much attention or energy left for school—but with many unanswered questions. Whose fault was the accident? Is Jonah still there, somewhere deep inside his body? And what 18th birthday gifts could possibly appeal to someone who can’t move, talk or even eat on his own?
As the debate about gun control rages around her, Liv’s life centers on daily minutiae: problems at school, team meetings with Jonah’s nurses and desperate appeals from Clay’s mother. When Liv needs solace, she finds it on the riverbank near the shuttered paper mill that once supported her small Maine town. And sometimes, Liv gives the river a piece of clothing that used to belong to her dead father.
Debut author Betty Culley is no stranger to medical fragility or family grief. Drawing on her personal experiences as a pediatric home hospice nurse, she writes Liv’s story from a place of courage and authenticity. Realistic details abound, and the poetic format enables complex and weighty emotions to flow freely.
Dedicated to “those who find the beauty in a life they didn’t choose or expect,” Three Things I Know Are True is a moving testament to the power of resilience.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with author Betty Culley.