Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

September 10th, 2013 Kimberly Review 69 Comments

10th Sep
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
Necessary Lies
by Diane Chamberlain
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart. After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give. When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

Diane Chamberlain’s novel Necessary Lies, set in rural North Carolina, some fifty years ago, was a moving and beautiful tale capturing both the horror and beauty of this period. I knew going into this book, that it was going to be heartbreaking but what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with these characters and hold them so close to my heart. This is a poignant tale of one of the worst atrocities perpetrated by a governing body in the name of humanity. Three word reviewing: gripping, beautiful and heartbreaking.

While the tale Chamberlain shares with us is fictional, I think it’s important to note that what occurs actually took place all over the United States, but primarily occurred in southern states from 1929 to 1974. If you are unfamiliar with the Eugenics program I urge you to read one of these sites: Huffington Post, Salon, and Wikipedia.

Jane Forrester is a forwarding thinking young woman of twenty-two who is about to wed to a young pediatrician and breaks the norm by becoming one of Grace County, NC’s newest social workers. Jane cares deeply about her clients, especially the Hart family, and struggles with the requirements of the job and her conscience. We meet Mary Beth, and her developmentally slow son William they live with Nonnie her grandmother; a diabetic who is selfish and struggles to raise her son’s children. Then we have fifteen year old Ivy Hart who takes care of them all and longs for a life far-far away. Chamberlain weaves these women into our hearts as she skillfully reveals the tone, and actions of this period. From racial tension, to the state-mandated sterilization, I became completely lost within the pages.

Jane Forrester was refreshing, opinionated and not afraid to speak her voice. She is a young wife, struggling to please her husband while pursuing a passion to help those less fortunate. Ivy Hart, stole a little piece of my heart, as did her sister Mary Beth. Two young, barely educated young woman, who work the tobacco farms in exchange for their shack and twenty-five cents a day. Nonnie, their grandmother and guardian is elderly, a diabetic with a sweet tooth, and someone who willingly works the system in order to survive. Through her characters Chamberlain showed us the many facets and opinions of the period, from Jane’s husband to the owner of the tobacco farm, we get a strong sense of the people, politics, and racial tensions. I became emotional invested in these characters, and the injustices making the tale very real for me.

In Necessary Lies, Chamberlain slowly reveals all sides of the Eugenics program, exposing some of the flaws, and opposing sides. It is brutally hard to imagine someone performing these procedures without the patience consent and denying others who desperately wanted it based on criteria such as financial independence, and education all in the name of bettering society. *shivers* The Hart’s are a poor white family and their circumstances reflect those of many in the rural south during this period. The author did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life and the tale moved me. Jane Forrester is such a brave character who fights the system and is soundly rejected by her peers. While the events that occurred were not new to me, Chamberlain based her tale on historical facts and carefully laid out all sides. This is a must read for anyone interesting in social issues, and a story that needs to shared. The tale unfolds in alternating POVs that change with each chapter giving us a first person perspective of Ivy and Jane. I love when an author fleshes out her characters like this and makes them real. The tale tugged at my heartstrings as it sent me on an emotional roller-coaster ride from anger, resentment and ultimately to tears. It is a story that will stay with me and one that touched my soul both as a mother and a human being.

I would love to see everyone read Necessary Lies and think Chamberlain captured this social injustice through unforgettable characters.

Five cups of coffee out of five
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

69 Responses to “Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain”

  1. Helen

    I read this recently and thoroughly enjoyed it! One of the best books I have read so far this year and I found a new-to-me author at the same time! Glad you enjoyed this one…I’ve been recommending it left, right and center.

  2. Adriana

    I had no idea about the Eugenics program. That’s seriously messed up. I don’t know why I’m surprised because there are a lot of periods on U.S. history that are outrageous to me now. I can definitely see why this could be a heartbreaking book. I have a bad feeling that this didn’t end well. Great variety of characters. It sounds like the characters fulfilled their roles as the heart of the story. Lovely review (:

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am glad I was able to enlighten you. Surprisingly this novel has a lot of good moments. Yes it isn’t all happy, but it ends on a high note.

  3. emaginette

    Wow, I spent some time reading up on the issues. The story sounds deep, making a clear social statement. I think you’re right about this being a Must Read. 🙂

  4. Rashika

    I heard about this book a couple of months ago and immediately added it to my list. Your review makes me wish I could get around to it already. It’s great that it explores both sides… and the issue… I just read some of the wikipedia article and wow.
    Great Review!

  5. Kimberly

    I tried reading one of Diane’s books last year but just couldn’t get into her writing style, but I think this one by her seems like it’s something I would enjoy so I really hope my library gets this one 🙂

  6. Berls

    I think you had me with “I didn’t expect was to fall in love with these characters and hold them so close to my heart.” I actually have read a lot about this period in my graduate studies and I always am amazed at what humans are able to do to each other & how powerful a motivator fear can be. Great review, already added to my tbr 🙂

  7. Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    I did just a quick research because I knew next to nothing about this project, but I stopped very quickly because I was absolutely horrified. Unbelievable.

    I love that this book touched you so deeply. It’s not something I’d normally read, but I trust such strong recommendation from you. Lovely review.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is so well written and she really captures the time and characters.

  8. glass

    Oh my God, I can’t believe those things really happened. Terrible.
    I love this review and I’ll get this book as soon as I can.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      thank you Glass, and it is horrible, and one that isn’t talked about nearly enough.

  9. Heidi

    Wow! This sounds like a book I need to read. All this stuff always appeals to my psychologist side and I can imagine how hard it is wrestling with this topic. Good thing we don’t have it in place anymore.

  10. Kim { Book Swoon }

    Diane Chamberlain’s novel Necessary Lies sounds like an amazingly heartfelt story. I love the way the characters Jane, Mary Beth and Ivy sound. Thanks for sharing this special story about a sad time in our history.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      thanks Kim, Chamberlain did a stellar job of capturing this period.

  11. Candace

    Wow, this book sounds fantastic! I didn’t know anything about the Eugenics stuff but checked out the links you provided. Fascinating stuff! Very scary, very unfair, very crazy, but really interesting to learn about. It’s just astounding the things that happen. I mean that wasn’t even THAT long ago. Crazy. But I think that this is one I would really enjoy reading. I love the setting, time period and subject and the characters sound great as well!

  12. Braine Talk Supe

    Any book that talks about social issues like racism, poverty, etc., regardless of the era is always emotionally engaging. This sounds like a smart read.

  13. Lark

    Whew, sounds emotionally wrenching as well as extremely good. I suspect it will end up on a lot of book groups’ lists! Excellent review, Kimba.

  14. Melissa (Books and Things)

    Oh on one hand I really would love to be immersed into the book and time period… but on the other hand, I think I would become very angry and might throw the book. It sounds pretty emotional but very thought provoking. Yep, I’m adding this one to the wishlist (with an added note to read in a padded room… )

  15. Dani C

    I have heard of this author but I haven’t read any of her books. I think I may have too. Thank you for the thought provoking review.

  16. Sarah

    Wow, five cups! Must have been a great book. It sounds tragic.

    Sarah @ Kitties Like Books Too

    • kimbacaffeinate

      The truth can be ugly, but the author also showed us beauty, courage and hope. Thank Sarah 🙂

  17. Andrea

    I’ve heard of the program, but not by name. I cannot imagine! This seems like such a well done, thought-provoking story. I can tell it really hit you hard.
    Great review, Kim!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It did, I tend to be an emotional reader and as a mother, and someone who dreamed of it as a child this tore a little piece of heart out.

  18. Tanja

    Wow this sounds amazing and I can’t believe that I haven’t heard of this book before. It sounds really intense and I know it’ll make me cry. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and amazing review 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yeah parts will make you cry if you are an emotional reader, but others will make you laugh and smile 🙂

  19. Debbie Haupt

    Kimba, what a wonderfully, touching, heartbreaking review. I’m a former reader of Diane’s so I do know her type of storytelling I’ve read a few of her former titles and The Midwife’s Confession was a standout, this one looks like it needs to go on my wish list. The US in the past has a lot of and has done a lot of explaining the whys and wherefores of their abominable past decrees and practices.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      thanks Debbie, and thanks to international followers, I learned we were not the only country practicing this heinous act in the name of charity.

    • Susan

      Thank you Kimba..Have Necessary Lies ARC Waited for your review and will definitely read..Must say Me Before You Jojo Moyes is purposely moving slowly for me…It’s so gripping,just not rushing this one..Balancing out with LowCountryBombshell Susan Boyer <3.The Other Woman then The Wrong Girl are up next Hank Phillippi Ryan Thanks Deb..I am not able to put a Dent in my TBR Books & Nook Books..Suze Hoarding Rehab…Not Stressing anymore 😉 Enjoying that…

  20. Laurel-Rain Snow

    I absolutely adored this one, too; I had the feeling of being immersed in that time and place, with those characters.

    This book was my favorite for the month in which I read it…and I’m sure it will be among my top reads for the year.

    I’ve always enjoyed Chamberlain’s books, but she really nailed it with this one.

    Thanks for your great review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Laurel, this is one that will stay with me 🙂 and I agree she nailed it!

  21. Megan

    Wow, this one sounds intense. I know this one will make me cry, since I could feel myself getting a little misty eyed while reading the synopsis and your review (it probably doesn’t help that I’m a bit over tired 😉 ). Excellent review.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is worth it though Meg, and there are moments of joy as well. Hope you get a nice nap today 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      *hands you a cup of coffee* This was only my second book by her and it was delightful.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      thanks Ali, this is one I will remember for a long time to come 🙂

  22. Nick

    I’m not the biggest fan of historicals, but the characters in this book make me want to read it. They sound like they are brilliantly well-written and I’m glad that you found a powerful and enjoyable read with it.
    Great review, Kim!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was really character driven Nick, and despite the time period I do think you would connect with the characters and I can just imagine you yelling at the idiot social workers and friends of Jane.

  23. Sharon - Obsession with Books

    This sounds emotionally intense Kimba and the subject matter quite scary but it sounds like the author did a great job of it.

    I’m really intrigued by this one, thanks for sharing your wonderful review.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was beautiful and while at times it ripped at my heart. I also had moments of joy. Thanks Sharon 🙂

  24. Lauren

    Wow, this sounds like an eye-opening, emotional read! I wasn’t planning on reading this one, but now that I’ve read your beautiful review I really want to read it! I can’t wait to meet Jane, Ivy and Mary Beth. Thanks for introducing me to this! 🙂