Necessary Lies – Diane Chamberlain – 2013 – Historical Fiction


Goodreads Summary:

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?

My Thoughts:

The story is told from the perspective of Ivy and Jane in alternative chapters. I find both of these characters likeable and their actions were mostly believable to me, although Jane at times acts very progressive and whilst it shows she is a good person, I’m not sure how accurate her actions are!

I found myself really rooting for Ivy in this book. She has had a really tough life and I could empathise with her a lot. She is a brave girl who defends her family no matter what and I loved the strong female role she provides.

The character I felt most sorry for was Mary Ella, and it breaks my heart when she finds out she is unable to have children because the most important thing in her life is family.

I learned a lot about the forced sterilisation from reading this book. It’s not a topic I’ve read about in a novel before, and the time period of the 50s and 60s is such an interesting one for women’s rights. A lot of women, particularly from better off families, were enjoying better rights but it’s important to remember those who were still facing massive oppression.

One of my favourite moments from the book was when Ivy gets to go to the beach – it really highlights not only Jane’s caring nature, but also that the things that Ivy has missed out on are seemingly simple yet strengthen their relationship.

The only thing that stopped this book being a 5 star read was the ending. It just felt really rushed after a well-paced, character driven novel, but I think because of the style of the story and the end scene that the author wanted to include there was no real way to have a pre-cursor that was as well executed as the rest of the novel.

I gave this book 4/5. If you enjoy historical fiction with strong characters I’d definitely recommend this book.

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