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?
Like most people, I'm sure, I hadn't heard the word 'Eugenics' since i was in high school and even then, I probably didn't fully understand what it really meant. Well, this book brought all of its ugliness to the forefront in a way that I will never forget.
Jane Forrester is an unlikely person to tell this story because her life is so drastically different from the people the Eugenics program affected. She could have very easily turned her back on the people she was assigned to assist while working for the county and just went along with it, but she simply couldn't do it. Even as her brand new picture perfect marriage to a doctor was being threatened, Jane simply could not let it go. For Jane, the secrecy and lies that were told to the victims in order to get them to comply proved to be more than Jane could bear. This story was told in such a vivid, authentic fashion that made it hard to imagine. Not only was the story authentically told, the characters were so genuine, it was like they were plucked right out of a time machine. Chamberlain focused mainly on two families, which made it easier to form a connection with those characters and get to know them and ultimately the secrets each family harbored.
I got so wrapped up in Jane and Ivy's story, that I'd forgotten the book began as a flashback. I've read many books lately that went back and forth from past to present and, quite frankly, I'd grown tired of that format, but in this instance, it didn't bother me at all because most of the story was told as if it was happening at that moment. I had been totally transported back in time and was completely absorbed until at the end of the book, I was once again back with Jane's grown daughter many years later.
Though the subject matter was a bit difficult, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think its important to remember even the most unpleasant parts of our country's past in order to remind us how far we've come. Because of a time issue, I chose to listen to the audio version of this book and I was completely satisfied with that decision. Alison Elliot did an incredible job with the narration. The southern vernacular was spot on and the individual characters were unmistakably unique and pitch perfect. Definitely a five star performance.
NECESSARY LIES would be a terrific selection for a book club with the wide range of topics to discuss. I'm sure it would be a very lively conversation. I would highly recommend this book, especially to readers who have an interest in Southern culture.
Author: Diane Chamberlain (@D_Chamberlain)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: September 2013
Length: 10 hrs 51 mins