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Necessary Lies: A Novel

Necessary Lies: A Novel

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Necessary Lies: A Novel

4.5/5 (57 avaliações)
462 página
7 horas
Lançado em:
Sep 3, 2013


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?

Lançado em:
Sep 3, 2013

Sobre o autor

Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Midwife's Confession and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. Diane lives in North Carolina and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her Web site at www.dianechamberlain.com and her blog at www.dianechamberlain.com/blog and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Diane.Chamberlain.Readers.Page.

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Necessary Lies - Diane Chamberlain


JUNE 22, 2011



It was an odd request—visit a stranger’s house and peer inside a closet—and as I drove through the neighborhood searching for the address, I felt my anxiety mounting.

There it was: number 247. I hadn’t expected the house to be so large. It stood apart from its neighbors on the gently winding road, flanked on either side by huge magnolia trees, tall oaks, and crape myrtle. It was painted a soft buttery yellow with white trim, and everything about it looked crisp and clean in the early morning sun. Every house I’d passed, although different in architecture, had the same stately yet inviting look. I didn’t know Raleigh well at all, but this had to be one of the most beautiful old neighborhoods in the city.

I parked close to the curb and headed up the walk. Potted plants lined either side of the broad steps that led up to the wraparound porch. I glanced at my watch. I had an hour before I needed to be back at the hotel. No rush, though my nerves were really acting up. There was so much I hoped would go well today, and so much of it was out of my control.

I rang the bell and heard it chime inside the house. I could see someone pass behind the sidelight and then the door opened. The woman—forty, maybe? At least ten years younger than me—smiled, although that didn’t mask her harried expression. I felt bad for bothering her this early. She wore white shorts, a pink striped T-shirt, and tennis shoes, and sported a glowing tan. She was the petite, toned, and well-put-together sort of woman that always made me feel sloppy, even though I knew I looked fine in my black pants and blue blouse.

Brenna? She ran her fingers through her short-short, spiky blond hair.

Yes, I said. And you must be Jennifer.

Jennifer peered behind me. She’s not with you? she asked.

I shook my head. I thought she’d come, but at the last minute she said she just couldn’t.

Jennifer nodded. Today must be really hard for her. She took a step back from the doorway. Come on in, she said. My kids are done with school for the summer, but they have swim-team practice this morning, so we’re in luck. We have the house to ourselves. The kids are always too full of questions.

Thanks. I walked past her into the foyer. I was glad no one else was home. I wished I had the house totally to myself, to be honest. I would have loved to explore it. But that wasn’t why I was here.

Can I get you anything? Jennifer asked. Coffee?

No, I’m good, thanks.

Well, come on then. I’ll show you.

She led me to the broad, winding staircase and we climbed it without speaking, my shoes on the shiny dark hardwood treads making the only sound.

How long have you been in the house? I asked when we reached the second story.

Five years, she said. We redid everything. I mean, we painted every single room and every inch of molding. And every closet, too, except for that one.

Why didn’t you paint that one? I asked as I followed her down a short hallway.

"The woman we bought the house from specifically told us not to. She said that the couple she’d bought the house from had also told her not to, but nobody seemed to understand why not. The woman we bought it from showed us the writing. My husband thought we should just paint over it—I think he was spooked by it—but I talked him out of it. It’s a closet. What would it hurt to leave it unpainted? We’d reached the closed door at the end of the hall. I had no idea what it meant until I spoke to you on the phone. She pushed open the door. It’s my daughter’s room now, she said, so excuse the mess."

It wasn’t what I’d call messy at all. My twin daughters’ rooms had been far worse. How old’s your daughter? I asked.

Ten. Thus the Justin Bieber obsession. She swept her arm through the air to take in the lavender room and its nearly wall-to-wall posters.

It only gets worse. I smiled. I barely survived my girls’ teen years. I thought of my family—my husband and my daughters and their babies—up in Maryland and suddenly missed them. I hoped I’d be home by the weekend, when all of this would be over.

Jennifer opened the closet door. It was a small closet, the type you’d find in these older homes, and it was crammed with clothes on hangers and shoes helter-skelter on the floor. I felt a chill, as though a ghost had slipped past me into the room. I hugged my arms as Jennifer pulled a cord to turn on the light. She pressed the clothes to one side of the closet.

There, she said, pointing to the left wall at about the level of my knees. Maybe we need a flashlight? she asked. Or I can just take a bunch of these clothes out. I should have done that before you got here. She lifted an armload of the clothes and struggled to disengage the hangers before carrying them from the closet. Without the clothing, the closet filled with light and I squatted inside the tight space, pushing pink sneakers and a pair of sandals out of my way.

I ran my fingers over the words carved into the wall. Ancient paint snagged my fingertips where it had chipped away around the letters. Ivy and Mary was here. All at once, I felt overwhelmed by the fear they must have felt back then, and by their courage. When I stood up, I was brushing tears from my eyes.

Jennifer touched my arm. You okay? she asked.

Fine, I said. I’m grateful to you for not covering that over. It makes it real to me.

If we ever move out of this house, we’ll tell the new owners to leave it alone, too. It’s a little bit of history, isn’t it?

I nodded. I remembered my phone in my purse. May I take a picture of it?

Of course! Jennifer said, then added with a laugh, Just don’t get my daughter’s messy closet in it.

I pulled out my phone and knelt down near the writing on the wall. I snapped the picture and felt the presence of a ghost again, but this time it wrapped around me like an embrace.




I swept the ground by the tobacco barn, hoping for a chance to talk to Henry Allen. He was on the other side of the field, though, working with the mules, and it didn’t look like he’d be done soon. No point in me staying any longer. All the day labor was gone already and if Mr. Gardiner spotted me he’d wonder why I was still here. Mary Ella was gone, too, of course. I didn’t want to know which of the boys—or men—she went off with. Most likely she was someplace in the woods. Down by the crick, maybe, where the trees and that tangle of honeysuckle made a private place where you could do anything. I knew that place so well. Maybe Mary Ella knew it, too. Henry Allen told me just don’t think about it, so I tried to put it out of my head. My sister was going to do what she wanted to do. Nothing me or nobody else could do about it. I told her we couldn’t have another baby in the house and she gave me that hollow-eyed look like I was speaking a foreign tongue. Couldn’t get through to Mary Ella when she gave you that look. She was seventeen—two years older than me—but you’d think I was her mama trying to keep her on the straight-and-narrow path to heaven. Some days I felt like I was everybody’s mama.

I headed home down Deaf Mule Road where it ran between two tobacco fields that went on forever and ever. I couldn’t look at all them acres and acres of tobacco we still had to get in. My fingers was still sticky with tar from that day’s work. Even my hair felt like it had tar in it, and as I walked down the road, I lifted one blond end of my hair from under my kerchief and checked it, but it just looked like my plain old hair. Dried hay. That’s what Nonnie said about my hair one time. My own grandma, and she didn’t care about hurting my feelings. It was true, though. Mary Ella got the looks in our family. Roses in her cheeks. Full head of long wild curls, the color of sweet corn. Carolina-blue eyes. Them looks of hers is a curse, Nonnie always said. She walks out the door and every boy in Grace County loses his good sense.

I took off my shoes and the dust from the road felt soft beneath my feet. Maybe the best thing I felt all day. Every time I did that—walked barefoot on the dirt road between the Gardiners’ two-story farmhouse and our little house—I felt like I was walking on Mama’s old ragged black velveteen shawl. That was practically the only thing we had left of hers. I used to sleep with it, but now with Baby William sharing the bed with me and Mary Ella, there wasn’t no room for nothing bigger than my memory of Mama, and after all these years, that was just a little slip of a thing.

I came to the end of the road where it dipped into the woods. The path got rough here with tree roots and rocks but I knew where every one of them was. I put my shoes back on before I came to the open area with the chigger weeds and by then I could hear Baby William howling. He was going at it good and Nonnie was hollerin’ at him to shut it, so I started running before she could get to the point of hitting him. For all I knew she’d been hitting him all afternoon. Nonnie wasn’t all that mean, but when her rheumatism made her hands hot and red, her fuse was right short. She said she raised our daddy, then me and Mary Ella, and she thought she was done with the raising. Then all of a sudden, Baby William came along.

I’m here! I called as I ran into our yard. The bike me and Mary Ella shared was on its side in the dirt and I jumped over it and ran around the woodpile. Baby William stood on the stoop, saggy diaper hanging halfway down his fat legs, his face all red and tears making paths through the dirt on his cheeks. His black curls was so thick they looked like a wig on his head. He raised his arms out to me when he saw me.

I’m here, baby boy! I said, and I scooped him up. He settled right away like always, his body shaking with the end of his crying. Now, if Mary Ella was with me, it’d be her he’d reach for—he knew his mama—but right now he was mine. Gotcha, sweet baby, I whispered in his ear.

I looked through the open doorway of our house, trying to see where Nonnie was, but it was dark in there and all I could see was the end of the ratty sofa where the sunlight lit on it from the open doorway. Nonnie kept the shades drawn all day to keep the house cooler. Mr. Gardiner put electricity in our house when I was little, but you’d swear Nonnie hadn’t figured out how to work it yet. Didn’t matter. The only real light in the house was the one I held in my arms.

Let’s get you changed, I said, climbing the stoop and walking into the house. I drew up the crackling old shades at the two front windows to let some light in and the dust motes took to floating around the room. Nonnie showed up in the doorway to the kitchen. She had a bundle of folded diapers and towels in her left arm and she leaned on her cane with her free hand.

Mary Ella ain’t with you? she asked, like that was out of the ordinary.

No. I kissed her cheek and I could of swore her hair had more gray in it than just that morning when she spent a few hours helping with the barning. She was turning into an old lady before my eyes, with big puffy arms and three chins and walking bent over. She already had the sugar and the high blood and I had this worry of losing her. You got to expecting it after a while, things going wrong. I wasn’t no pessimist, though. Mrs. Rex, my science teacher two years ago, told me I was one of them people that looked on the bright side of things. I thought of Mrs. Rex every time I started to say the word ain’t and changed it to isn’t. You can’t get anywhere in life talking dumb, she told us. Not that I was exactly getting anywhere in life.

I took the laundry from Nonnie with my free hand, catching a whiff of sunshine from the towels. Maybe she’s getting some extras from Mr. Gardiner, I said, trying to think positive. I wanted to wipe the scowl off Nonnie’s face. Once or twice a week, Mr. Gardiner, Henry Allen’s daddy who owned all them acres and acres of tobacco, gave Mary Ella things from his own personal garden—and sometimes his smokehouse—for us. He could just as easy hand them to me, but her being the oldest seemed to mean something to him. Or maybe it was that she was a mama now and he thought the food should go to Baby William. I didn’t know. All I knew was that we needed them extras. Mr. Gardiner took care of us in a lot of ways. He gave us a Frigidaire and a new woodstove so big the heat could reach the bedroom as long as we left the door open—and since the door didn’t close all the way, that was easy. Nonnie was about to ask for indoor plumbing when Mary Ella started sprouting her belly. Then Nonnie decided she better not ask for nothing more.

Did Mary Ella tell him about them deer getting into our garden again? she asked. The deer got into our garden no matter how much fencing I put around the little bit of good soil Mr. Gardiner let us work for ourselves.

Yes, I said, though it was me who told him. Mary Ella didn’t like talking to Mr. Gardiner so much. She wasn’t a big talker to begin with.

Got your wages? Nonnie asked, like she did every day.

I’ll give ’em to you soon as I change this boy, I said, walking to the bedroom. Mr. Gardiner paid us pennies compared to his other workers, but he let us live here for nothing, so we never complained.

I plunked Baby William down on the bed and started tickling the daylights out of him because I wanted to hear him giggle. We rolled around on the bed for a couple minutes, both of us getting the worries of the day out of ourselves. Sometimes I just liked to stare at that boy, he was so beautiful. Black curls like satin when you ran your fingers through them. Black eyelashes, long and thick. Eyes so dark they was nearly black, too. Mary Ella’s hair was even lighter than mine. I didn’t like to think where Baby William might of got all that black from.

There was a rustle of the trees outside the window and Baby William looked in that direction. We worried early on he might be deaf ’cause he didn’t seem to care about noises and Mrs. Werkman and Nurse Ann said he might need a deaf school, so now every time he heard something, I celebrated inside.

Mama? he asked, lifting his head to look through the window. It was about the only word he knew, which Mrs. Werkman said wasn’t right. He should have more words by two, she said. I didn’t like how she was always finding something wrong with him. I told her he was just quiet like Mary Ella. Not a jabbermouth, like me.

It’s just a breeze out there, I said, nuzzling his sweaty little neck. Mama’ll be home soon.

I hoped I wasn’t lying.

*   *   *

In the kitchen, I fed Baby William on my lap while Nonnie made salad from the last of a chicken we’d been eating most of the week. It was getting near dusk and Mary Ella still wasn’t home. Baby William wasn’t hungry. He kept pushing my hand away and the chunks of squash fell off the spoon.

He’s always a crab at suppertime, Nonnie said.

No he ain’t, I said. I hated how she talked about him like that. I bet she talked about me and Mary Ella that way when we was little, too. He just needs some cuddling, don’t you, Baby William? I rocked him and he hung on to me like a monkey. Mrs. Werkman said we shouldn’t hold him when we feed him no more. He should sit on a chair at the table, up on the block of wood me and Mary Ella sat on when we was little, but I just loved holding him and he crabbed less on my lap. Sometimes when I held Baby William like that, I thought I could remember my own mama holding me that way.

I doubt that, Nonnie said when I told her that one day. She wasn’t much for holding y’all.

But I remembered it. Maybe I only imagined it, but that was near as good.

Nonnie scooped Duke’s mayonnaise out of the jar and mixed it into the salad, looking out the window the whole time. Gonna be dark before you know it, she said. You better go see if you can find your sister. That girl forgets her way home sometime.

I let Baby William eat a piece of squash with his fingers. No telling where she is, Nonnie, I said, but I knew I had to try or we’d both be worrying half the night. I stood up, handing Nonnie the baby and the spoon, and she set him on the wooden block. He let out a howl and she clamped her hand over his mouth.

Outside, I checked the johnny first just in case, but she wasn’t there. Then I walked through the woods and across the pasture, turning my head left and right, looking for Mary Ella. I walked down the lane that ran next to the tobacco, which looked spooky in the evening light. When I was little, Mama would tell me fairies lived in them tobacco plants. Nonnie said I imagined this, that Mama would never say such a fanciful thing, but I didn’t care. If I had to make up memories of Mama, I’d do it. I used to think someday I’d be able to ask her myself if the things I remembered was true, but Mrs. Werkman said no good could come from me paying Mama a visit after all this time. No good for either of you, dear, she said, and by the way she said it I knew she felt real bad about the whole thing.

Way off to my left, I could see the Gardiners’ house blazing with light from just about every room. I walked faster so I could see the back of the house and the two windows I knew was Henry Allen’s room. I’d been in that room. Snuck in, of course. I would of been kilt if anyone knew. Mr. or Mrs. Gardiner. Nonnie. Lord, Nonnie would have my head! But Henry Allen would keep me safe. Nobody I trusted more than that boy. Even when we was little, he’d take on anybody that said a bad word about me. Back then I couldn’t of known I’d come to love him like I did.

I nearly tripped over my own feet as I watched the windows, trying to see Henry Allen’s shadow move past one of them, but I was so far from the house that the windows was nothing more than rectangles of light. It was real dusky out now, so he probably couldn’t see me even if he was looking. But I felt it anyway, that long invisible thread that connected me and him. It always had.

Down the lane in front of me, a light burned on the porch of the Jordans’ house, the other family that lived on the farm. I knew Mary Ella wouldn’t be there, so I turned around and pretty soon I could see the farmhouse windows again. I stared so hard at Henry Allen’s windows that I near forgot I was supposed to be looking for my sister. I wondered if he was listening to his radio. He had one of them little ones you could carry around with you. He brung it with him whenever we met up at the crick. We had a big old radio, of course, but you had to plug it in. Henry Allen said he was going to get me one of the little ones, and when I thought of having music I could carry around, I couldn’t believe it. The Gardiners even had a television and Henry Allen promised someday he’d show it to me but it had to be a time when his parents and the help was out of the house and I didn’t know what it would take for that to happen. A funeral maybe. I didn’t want to wish for no funeral just so I could see a television.

I looked down the lane ahead of me, wishing I brung a lantern with me because it was getting right dark out. The moon was big, though, and it spilled light all over the tobacco like glitter.

What you doin’ out here this time of night, Ivy?

I jumped, and it took my eyes a minute to make out Eli Jordan walking toward me. He was so dark he blended into the night.

I slowed my walking. Just looking for Mary Ella, I said, casual like, not wanting to sound worried.

That girl’s a traveler, ain’t she? We was nearly face-to-face now and he looked off across the field like he might be able to see her. He was seventeen, same as Mary Ella, but could of passed for twenty. Taller than me by a hand and broad in the shoulders. Nonnie called him a buck. That Jordan buck can do the work of four men, she’d say, sounding admiring, and then a breath later add, Stay away from him, Ivy, like I’d be fool enough to mess with a colored boy. Wasn’t me that needed that warning. Sometimes I felt like he could look out for me. Other times, I felt scared by his power. Like the day he lifted a giant tree stump from the ground to the back of Mr. Gardiner’s blue pickup, the muscles in his back rippling like water in the crick. He was a boy who could be for good or evil, and I didn’t know which one he was going to pick.

Did you see her since the barning today? I asked.

He shook his head and started walking past me toward his house. Ain’t seen her, he said, then over his shoulder, She’ll probly be home when you git there.

Probly, I said, and I started walking again, faster this time.

The moon lit up the rows of tobacco and I went back to watching the lights in the farmhouse as I walked. I put my hand in my shorts pocket and felt the scrap of paper. Midnight, tomorrow, Henry Allen had written in the note. Most every day, he left a note for me near the bottom of the old fence post where the wood was split. He could tuck the note in real deep and no one but me would know it was there. Sometimes he’d say one o’clock or two, but usually it was midnight. I liked that best. Liked the sound of it. I liked thinking someday I’d tell our grandkids, Me and your grandpa would meet by the crick at midnight. Of course, I’d never tell them what we did there.

I saw a lantern in the distance. Someone was walking along Deaf Mule Road where it ran between the Gardiners’ house and the woods. It wouldn’t be Henry Allen. Way too early. As I got closer, I saw the moonlight fall on my sister’s blond hair, which was out of her braid, loose and wild, a crazy big moonlit halo around her head. She was carrying something and I knew it was her basket with the extras Mr. Gardiner gave her for us. I walked faster till I was close enough for her to hear me.

Mary Ella! I called out, and she stopped walking and looked around, trying to see where my voice came from. Then she must of spotted me. Instead of walking toward me, though, she ran right across the path I was on, heading for the woods and home, and I knew she was running to keep away from me. She didn’t want to see me. Or me to see her. My sister was a strange one.

By the time I got home, Mary Ella was sitting on the porch rocking Baby William in her arms. Even in the dark, I could tell she was holding him so tight you’d expect him to cry, but Baby William put up with Mary Ella lovin’ on him. She was the only one who could calm him when he got flustrated from not having the words to tell us what he wanted. He knew who’d carried him closest to her heart. Moments like this, they was two quiet souls cut from the same cloth.

Where you been? I asked, like I expected her to tell me the truth.

Had to get the extras from Mr. Gardiner, she said.

I didn’t bother arguing with her. It didn’t take hours to get the extras unless she had to grow them herself. I didn’t say nothing about how I saw Eli walking home about the same time she was. There was something real breakable about Mary Ella and I was always afraid if I touched her in the wrong spot, she’d crack.

Nonnie came out on the porch, rooting through the basket in the light from the house. He gave us some of Desiree’s banana pudding! she said. Oh sweet Jesus, I wish he’d do that every week.

You can’t have that, Nonnie, I reminded her as I sat down on the stoop. Your sugar.

Don’t go telling me what I can and can’t have, Nonnie snapped. You seem to forget you’re my granddaughter, not my mother.

I shut up. Nonnie was like a little kid about her food. You told her she couldn’t have something and she’d eat it just to be ornery. You reminded her to test her pee, and she’d lie and say she already done it.

I smacked a skeeter. I wouldn’t last long out here. Once you stopped moving, they was on you.

Nonnie went back in the house and came out a minute later with a spoon. She settled into her rocker and set the bowl of pudding on her lap. I couldn’t watch her take that first bite. I heard her let out a sigh.

I’m at the end of my natural working life, girls, she said. She’d been saying that for years, but lately I believed it. She didn’t last but two hours at the barn today, and even chasing after Baby William seemed too much for her. It was up to me and Mary Ella to work hard enough to keep Mr. Gardiner happy so he’d let us keep the house. He could have a bunch of real workers in it. A family with a father and sons who could do five times what me and Mary Ella and Nonnie did. I was always afraid one day he’d tell us it was time to go. What we’d do without our house, I didn’t know.

I watched my grandmother digging into the bowl of banana pudding and my sister holding her secrets as close as she held her baby, and I wondered how much longer we could go on this way.



Dr. Carson reached his hand toward me to help me sit up. I clutched the thin fabric gown against my body as I balanced on the edge of the examining table, my legs dangling uncomfortably. He rolled away from me on his stool, then folded his arms across his chest and smiled at me, his thick gray hair giving him a grandfatherly appearance.

I think your fiancé is a lucky man, he said.

Thank you, I said, although I couldn’t imagine what on earth he was basing that on. I’d barely said a word to him during the examination, too embarrassed to do anything other than stare at the ceiling. Now, though, I had to look at him. He seemed determined to hold my gaze with his own eyes, magnified behind his black horn-rimmed glasses.

Do you have any concerns about your wedding night you’d like to discuss? he asked.

It was so strange to be asked that question by a man I didn’t know. My own mother wouldn’t ask me that question. Gloria wouldn’t have, either, and she’d been my college roommate and best friend. And certainly not Robert. I felt my cheeks burn, not for the first time in the last hour. This man had touched my breasts, slipped his fingers inside me, and explored parts of my body even I had never seen. Why should a question about my wedding night feel even more intrusive?

No, I said. No concerns. I couldn’t wait to leave his office, but there was something more I needed from him. It was now or never, and he waited as though he knew I had more to say. I cleared my throat. I was wondering if you could prescribe that new birth control pill for me, I said.

He raised his bushy gray eyebrows. You don’t want children? The way he said it was accusatory, and I felt his opinion of me plummet.

I pressed the gown tighter to my chest. I’d like to put off having children for a couple of years, I said. I plan to work for a while first.

Surely you don’t have to work. He looked at me curiously. Not married to a pediatrician. He’d told me he’d met Robert somewhere in the Raleigh medical community, and I didn’t like that connection.

"I want to work," I said. Dr. Carson sounded like my mother, who claimed she only worked while my father was alive because his teaching salary had never quite paid the bills, and she only continued to work after his death because the life insurance wasn’t enough to see us through. I knew she loved working in the library, no matter what she said. Robert wasn’t thrilled with my plan himself, though. He never out-and-out said I couldn’t work. He did, however, say it would be embarrassing for him, since none of his friends’ wives worked. Only Gloria, who taught second grade, seemed to

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  • (4/5)
    This is a fast-paced book that kept me reading until I finished. It's set in 1960 with Jane, a social worker, starting her first job and her first marriage. Jane's focus is Ivy, a 15-year-old. Jane is expected to file papers to have Ivy sterilized. The Eugenics Program was a real program used to cut-down the number of people on welfare or for those with illness or low abilities by sterilizing sometimes without their knowledge. Jane struggles with how to do the right thing when almost everyone around her disagrees with her. The novel tells a compelling story, but I found it lacking beautiful language. The story was 5 stars, but the lack of imagery and vocabulary was 3 stars. However, it's a book I will readily recommend to others.
  • (5/5)
    If you don't know anything about NC history, you'll probably be horrified to hear that they were still practicing eugenics and forced sterilization in the 1960's. As a former social work student who loves reading books that deal with social issues, I picked this book up and didn't stop reading until I was finished. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I definitely loved it. It made me think, and it made me cry. Wow. Highly recommend!
  • (3/5)
    I did learn something by reading this book, but I found it to be one of the most depressing books I've ever read. The feeling of hopelessness really started to pull me down after a while. The year is 1960, and in North Carolina, the state would sterilize individuals that were intellectually delayed, epileptic, or even just for being poor and on welfare. The Eugenics Board really existed, but this story is fictional. Jane is a middle classed, newly married social worker who gets caught up in the problems of the Hart family and is faced with making decisions she thought she would never have to make. Some factual information about the program is included at the end of the book. Some of the characters and their attitudes are quite disturbing, but the reader must keep the time in history and the location of the novel in mind when reading.
  • (5/5)
    Forced sterilization for the good of the people is the idea eugenic programs are based on. The programs set into place have long been discontinued and many would prefer the shameful policies were not brought out into the light but history often repeats itself and it is important that these secrets are no longer hidden. Diane Chamberlain does an excellent job allowing the reader to experience what the eugenics program was about and how one family was affected by it. This book made me open my eyes to the horrors of such a program. My heart hurts for all the people who because of mental health issues, low intelligence, low income and other health issues were sometimes unknowingly sterilized.
  • (5/5)
    Wow! If I could only give this book 10 stars. Amazing! This book is definitely compelling, tear jerker, engaging and heart warming. This was also an eye-opener for me regarding Eugenics Sterilization Program and it's impact to the people affected of it in that era.

    The story revolved around a newly married and newly employed Welfare Social Worker Jane Forrester and her clients, most especially Ivy Hart. Set in a time (1960) and place (North Carolina) of racial tension and the controversial Eugenics Sterilization Program. And how Jane fought so hard to protect and helped her client.

    I highly recommend this book and will definitely read more books from Diane Chamberlain.
  • (4/5)
    Wow, to think this really happened to people without their knowledge or consent is just awful! This story is gripping and I flew through it....very good!
  • (5/5)
    I had no idea what this was really about when I received the review copy from the publisher. Then I found it on my "hafta read" pile for the Maine Reader's Choice Award panel. I hesitate to call it a delightful surprise since the subject matter, Eugenics, is one that is deeply controversial and ugly.Evidently, in the US, several states had Eugenics programs in place allowing them to sterilize certain institutionalized citizens deemed unsuitable for procreating for a number of reasons, e.g., epilepsy, mental retardation, etc. In North Carolina, the setting of this story, social workers were allowed to recommend this procedure on clients who were members of the general population without their residing in an institution. Often they were simply poor, undereducated, and malnourished.In the story, we follow Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. Jane is an upper middle class college graduate, recently married to a pediatrician who does not want his wife to work. Jane has different ideas, wanting to have some sort of career before settling down to staying home to raise children. She is hired as a social worker in North Carolina in the early 1960's. Ivy Hart is one of her clients, a 15 year old girl who is trying hard to be a caregiver to a diabetic grandmother, a mother to her slightly retarded older sister and the sister's child "baby William" all the while trying to stay in high school and be the first in the family to graduate.The poverty of the Hart family is thoroughly depressing and would crush the spirit of just about any normal person. Ivy, with encouragement from Jane, is determined NOT to allow herself to become pregnant, and at the same time is doing everything she can to be sure that her sister, who is known to be quite promiscuous, does not have another child. The social services department for whom Jane works, is determined to sterilize both girls. Jane finds herself in the middle of a moral dilemma trying to help Ivy, obey her boss, and placate her husband while keeping him unaware of the specifics of her job. As the timeline becomes more critical, Jane is forced to make decisions that will have a definite impact not only on her clients, but also on her own future.This is a true page turner. The characters are real, believable, and the story is horrifying in its implications. The author has done significant research to present us with an in-depth look at the unbelievable options that actually occurred in this country just 50 short years ago. It is a must read.
  • (5/5)
    I haunting story based on cruel facts. The Dept if Public Welfare, nothing more cruel.
  • (5/5)
    Ivy Hart is fifteen. Her parents are gone and she’s become the one looking after her grandmother, her older sister, and her nephew. Tenants on a small tobacco farm, their life is difficult and, although the women earn a pittance working in the tobacco field, the family survives only because of the welfare they receive.Jane Forrester is a new social worker for Grace County; despite her newlywed husband’s objection to her job, she soon becomes emotionally invested in the lives of her clients, particularly the Hart women. The more Jane learns, the more difficult it becomes for her to turn her back on the things she believes to be wrong even as her supervisor, Charlotte, explains the necessity of the decisions she and the others in the agency make. Will Jane become a heroine for Ivy, or is she destined to be the enemy? With well-drawn characters, the story delves into the issues of the time: discrimination, poverty, the marginalization of a segment of society. As the story unfolds, drawing readers into Ivy’s narrative and Jane’s story, tension builds around the seemingly-impossible and keeps the pages turning. Historically accurate, the narrative is set in North Carolina in the 1960s and focuses on the eugenics program and its impact, particularly on the disenfranchised women sterilized without their consent. It’s a powerfully-told story, one that will stay with the reader long after reaching the final page.Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    I couldn't put this book down. It tells the story of Jane Forrester, a woman in 1960 working for the Department of Public Welfare in the deep south of America. She's new to the job and finds it hard to detach herself emotionally from the families she is dealing with. One of her families is the Hart family and in particular 15 year old Ivy and her 17 year old sister, Mary Ella. They work in tobacco fields and live in poverty. The biggest part of the story relates to a moral dilemma facing Jane, and this made the book such an interesting read, especially when you consider it's based on reality.The book alternates between being told from the points of view of Jane and Ivy. I was never confused as to who was 'speaking' as each has a very distinctive voice. I raced through the story - Diane Chamberlain has such a human way of writing, enabling me as a reader to feel empathy with the characters. Add to that her ability to write such interesting and morally complex storylines and this guarantees a fab read.
  • (4/5)
    Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in 1960, in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. Newly married to a successful pediatrician, Jane rejects tradition when she takes a job as a social worker instead of becoming a housewife. Jane is not at all prepared for her new career, but she is enthusiastic and dedicated to her clients. Ivy is mature beyond her years but also quite innocent and naive. She's the one that takes the caretaker role with her diabetic grandmother and two year old nephew. Jane decides to fight to protect Ivy from the system that is supposed to protect her which leads to life changing consequences for everyone involved.

    I never knew a Eugenics Program existed in the United States. The Eugenics Program was a way the states used to sterilize people, may of them without their own consent. In most states, this program was predominantly used for the institutionalized. However, residents of North Carolina were able to be sterilized based on petitions written by their social workers. This system became a way for people living on welfare to be prohibited from having too many children. It was tragic that such a system could be allowed, and equally tragic that social workers felt they were doing the best they could to improve the life of their clients.

    Told in first person from alternating points of view, I thought it was a powerful and thought-provoking novel that paints a vivid portrait of poverty, sexism, racism and social work in rural North Carolina in 1960.
  • (4/5)
    Might have given it a 5 but the ending didn't sit well with me. But it was a read that was hard to put down. The audio is well-read also.
  • (5/5)
    Really enjoyed this audio book. Story based on truth. Heart breaking truth.
  • (5/5)
    I discovered Diane Chamberlain recently and its been such a pleasure to read her novels. Necessary Lies follows Chamberlains amazing ability to build characters with complex relationships and life decisions while making the reader question their own social and political views and capacity for compassion and understanding.
  • (5/5)
    In the early 1960's, newly wed and newly employed, Jane Forrester has, much to her husbands dismay, taken a job as a social worker. Everyday, she travels from her well to do neighborhood to tobacco fields and the poverty stricken people who work them. As a social worker she is to evaluate them, drop off clothes and address health issues to the agency's nurse. She must also select those who because of mental or physical deficiencies, should not reproduce. Jane gets personnaly involved with one particular family and goes way beyond the jobs requirements.I truly, truly loved this book. Why? Firstly, because it is of a subject I had no knowledge of, secondly, author's fictional characters come alive. So much so in fact I became just as involved with this family as Jane. The conclusion even brought me to tears. To supplement the reading of this book I also listened to the audio version and narrator Alison Elliott is outstanding! Whether print or audio I highly recommend it. It would have been a 5 star read it's just one particular thing troubled me towards the end of the story but it's minor.
  • (5/5)
    Sort of miserable topic in beginning of story, but becomes in-put-downable.
  • (5/5)
    I liked this book a lot. It would make a good book club read, about the eugenics program in NC: sterilizing men and women on welfare to reduce the welfare rolls.
  • (5/5)
    I have not cried because of a book in a long time. I listened to this on books on CD and bawled my eyes out at many sections...In the beginning I thought this was a cookie cutter story. Not. So worth a read...Do yourself a favor...Listen, read, whatever-but have tissue handy.
  • (4/5)
    This is a story of the interaction between a young social worker in her first job, full of dedication and concern for her clients but clearly inadequate yet to deal with the complexities of the family that becomes the focus of this novel. The novel deals with the issue of state-ordered sterilization of individuals deemed to be mentally defective, a practice that was carried on until remarkably recently in some states. The characters are well-drawn and the pacing of the story was perfect to keep me interested and engaged.
  • (3/5)
    This was my first Diane Chamberlain book but was just OK for me. I was drawn to the book because it was set in the 1960s in North Carolina (southern fiction is one of my favorite genres) and involved the controversial Eugenics Board of North Carolina. I agree with others that the book was easy to read and moved along at a good clip, but I struggled to connect with the characters and the plausibility of the story. I know that the Eugenics Board existed - in fact North Carolina is just now in the process of making compensation payments to victims of its forced sterilization program. I also know now (after doing some research post-reading) that North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to designate people for sterilization. Hence, I can see why Ms. Chamberlain, as a former social worker, was drawn to writing this untold story. I just felt there was some character development lacking. Instead, I walked away from this book better educated by the crazy world around us (which is a good thing) but not necessarily emotionally touched. I hope to try another Diane Chamberlain novel in the future.
  • (5/5)
    Wow. Set in 1960 in North Carolina, Jane is a new college grad who takes a social work job in rural Grace county. Married to a pediatrician, who really wants a stay at home wife, the marriage is off to a rough start. And when Jane gets involved in the poor tenant farmer families, with lots of hidden secrets, she gets herself fired. But when her client, 15 yo Ivy, is scheduled for sterilization under a eugenics law that she feels is absolutely morally wrong, she really puts herself in the middle of trying to do what's right. And what is right for Ivy?
  • (5/5)
    It is hard to believe that the characters in this book are fictional. The author made them seem so real to me. I had never heard of the Eugenics Sterilization Programme, and had no idea how many people had been steriised that way, and were lied to as well about what had been done to them. The programme sterilised those who were deemed unfit to have children, and care for them properly.The story features the Hart family - Mary Ella and her son William, Ivy and their grandmother Nonnie who looks after them. They are a poverty stricken family working on a tobacco farm in North Carolina. Into their lives comes Jane a case worker, well off and married to Robert, a doctor who does not want her to work. None of his friend's wives do and he feels this shows that he is not able to provide well enough for her, but Jane does not fit into his social circle at all and wants to work. Soon after Jane starts the case worker training her breaks her leg so Jane is given full responsibilty for the Hart family.Jane is not well suited for the job. She obviously cares for her clients and wants the best for them but she becomes too involved with them and breaks rules. And when she tries to undo the lies that have been told ie Mary Ella wa not sterilised she had her appendix taken out there are devastating consequences.This was a really gripping read and a heartbreaking story. Chamberlain gives the point of view of Jane, Ivy, and Mary Ella and even Robert, and is careful to present both sides of the sterilisation issue and leave the reader to make up their own mind. The characters are so well drawn and I really felt empathy for Jane stuck in marriage to Robert who could not understand what she wanted at all. And Ivy - her story was so compelling, fighting against being sterilised and wanting a life together with the father of her baby. She was the one who was doing her best to try and keep the family together. This is the best book by Chamerlain that I have read and the characters and their situations will stay with me for a long time.
  • (4/5)
    Book was interesting, a subject I have not read much about.. Writing was ok, an easy read.
  • (5/5)
    I am late to the Diane Chamberlain fan club. I have heard others rave about her books, but haven't read any until now. I can't wait to be sucked in to another one of her books. If you like books that are written around a moral or ethical issue than this book is for you.In NECESSARY LIES, we are taken to the south in the 1960's. The area is full of tobacco farmers and poverty stricken families like the Harts. Ivy Hart is a fifteen-year-old who has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She helps take care of Nonnie, her elderly and diabetic grandma, her older sister, Mary Ella and Mary Ella's son, William. They all live in a shack on a tobacco farm that they also work on. After the family's current social worker breaks her leg, Jane, a newlywed who lives a much more privileged life with her doctor husband, is assigned to the family. As Jane learns the role of being a social worker she is introduced to the Eugenics Sterilization Program, the sterilization of women who are deemed unfit to have children.Jane has concerns about the sterilization program and her questions to the department are met with anger and a direct order to fill out the necessary forms. Jane's husband, Robert is not happy about the fact that she is working and is worried about how that will appear to his professional friends. Jane ends up feeling alone and confused as she realizes she can't talk to her husband about her job and the concerns she has about the Eugenics Program. As she gets to know Ivy and Mary Ella, Jane becomes emotionally involved in their lives. When Jane finds out secrets about the family and their lives on the tobacco farm, she has to decide if she is willing to risk her job and maybe her marriage to help Ivy and her family.The very first chapter of NECESSARY LIES grabbed me and pulled me right on through the book rather quickly. I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Eugenics Program before and Chamberlain shared both sides of the issue through each character's opinions. Reading along, you will be wrestling with your own opinions on welfare, social work, poverty, and sterilization. Chamberlain definitely gives you topics for discussion. This was our book club choice this month and we had plenty to discuss. I had so many favorite lines from the book, it felt like I was highlighting all the time. I'll feature just a few of my favorites:"Well, I think when we lose somebody, maybe we owe it to that person to remember them. To hold on to the good memories." I thought about that for a minute and liked what she said. Nobody wanted to be forgotten. Page 126"There are too many silly rules in our lives," she said, "and our lives are far too short to pay attention to them." Page 199"Sometimes, coloring outside the lines can cost you," she said. "Only you can figure out if it's worth it." Page 305Chamberlain took great care researching the time period, location, tobacco farming, and the Eugenics program. The reader will have a hard time believing this is a fictional story since the characters and their struggles seem so real. Ivy is completely devoted to her family and to her one true love, Henry. Ivy and Henry must be very careful with their relationship and even though you know it is forbidden, you want to root for their happiness. I cringed every time Robert criticized Jane and am thankful I grew up in a different era of marriage. I also understood Jane's emotional attachment to the Hart family. As a former social worker, there are clients that you feel more compelled to help and you naturally get emotionally involved. Jane took that to a whole new level in NECESSARY LIES and kept the reader guessing what would happen next. Chamberlain keeps you on the edge of your emotions with numerous surprises throughout the story. She kept me questioning my original opinions and frequently drying my tears. I have no doubt that book clubs, readers of social justice issues, and those who love historical fiction will find NECESSARY LIES to be a compelling story and one they won't soon forget.
  • (5/5)
    I was so glad there was an author's note about how Chamberlain came to write this incredible historical novel...truly a page turner. Beautifully written and as another reviewer noted---every word is important. How frightening that in the world we live in today there are so many aspects of this book that continue to be repeated.
  • (5/5)
    Author Diane Chamberlain takes us back to a time in history that is dark and disturbing. It is the south in the 1960’s. Jane Forrester is just on the brink of new life. Newly married, she is beginning her career as a social worker. She is well off, married to a pediatrician, and spends her days dealing with the problems of the poverty-stricken, poorly educated people of Grace County. Her husband is against her working and wives of his friends don’t like her. But Jane is driven to help her clients, even to the point of breaking the rules where she works. Getting too involved with her clients, especially with two families who are marginally connected with each other, June finds herself breaking more than just the rules. Just how far she is willing to go to protect a young girl illustrates just how caring she is. This compelling novel, based on historical fact, will have you questioning the rightness of certain laws. The author does an excellent job of speaking through different voice to tell this gripping tale. This is a story you will think about long after you have turned the last page.
  • (5/5)
    Another fascinating book about the eugenics program in North Carolina this time told from the perspective of a new social worker who is appalled at the program. The first book I read on this subject was “Unfit by, Lara Cleveland Torgesen” which I found fascinating and I think both of these books should be read to really get a feel for what these poor women/young ladies/children went through.Jane may be a woman ahead of her time because the only respectable job for a lady was a school teacher or nurse especially when you are married to a pediatrician who really doesn’t want you to work. You surely don’t go to work as a social worker, working with the poor and god forbid the coloreds , it made me sick that her husband was more upset about her having to work with the coloreds and that she wasn’t there to have dinner waiting for him. I for one am so glad at how far we have come as women!We also meet Ivy Hart who is one of Jane’s clients Ivy is trying to keep her little family together even though she is only 15 years old herself. She takes care of her grandmother who has a problem with sugar which we now call diabetes and an older sister who has already had one illegitimate child but little William is the apple of everyone’s eye and they do try their best to take good care of him. But when Jane takes over as case worker everything changes, Jane makes a discovery and tells a secret that changes everything for the Hart family.I really liked this book, this was a new to me author and narrator and I enjoyed them both very much. I liked the authors writing style and I found the subject matter well handled. The characters in this book are nicely fleshed out and it gives us a frightening look into social work in the 1960’s in North Carolina, which was the one state that continued the eugenics program longer than any other state, so many women (and men) were sterilized just for being poor or colored, which I feel is horrifying. Narrator Alison Elliott did a really good job at portraying both of these women and I thought she added to the telling of this story I will definitely listen to her again.I will be looking for other books by this author.4 ½ Stars
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book, I couldn't put it down!
  • (4/5)
    3.5 I am appalled that with the large amounts of book I have read, I had never heard of this eugenic program before. A white family of sharecroppers on a tobacco farm in the south, and a newly married social worker are the two threads in this story.My favorite was the thread with the sharecroppers was my favorite, the parts with Jane sometimes came off a bit awkward. The book, nevertheless, hooked me from the very beginning. All the secrets kept and waiting to be revealed on this farm, Jane and her pediatric husband who does not want her to work, made the book flow quickly.It was a time when successful men felt insulted when their wives wanted to work and the way Jane's job was viewed by her husband and his friends was also very interesting. Many of the woman entered into the eugenics program were not even told what was being done to them and I felt indignant and angry on their behalf. In essence betrayed by the people and the agencies that were supposed to help them. Of course, anything to do with the mistreatment of children is very hard to read, and a child being pulled away from its mother is a horrible vision.This was a fast paced story and one that needed to be told.
  • (5/5)
    I live in North Carolina and was aware of the issue of eugenics due to newspaper articles in the last few years. I moved to NC in 1973 and remember the days that the fields were full of tobacco plants and people working tobacco. Those days are gone thanks to decreasing demand for cigarettes. I live near Greensboro and graduated from University of NC in Greensboro - which was originally Women's College, where Jane graduated before becoming a social worker. So much of this novel was very familiar to me. The author did a fantastic job of making the setting for her story very true to life. But more important than the setting was the story itself. She took a very sensitive and disputed topic and put a face to it. Its one thing to discuss what is wrong with eugenics but it makes it so much more real to think about it with Ivy and Mary Ella. Even though they are fictional characters, they represent many of the women of this time period. The story was very real and I'm sure that similar stories were played out all over the country during this time period. I tend to judge my books by how long I think about them after I finish reading them and how many people I recommend them to. I have recommended this book to everyone I know and continue to think about the story and the characters days after I finished the book. I read a lot of books (125-30 a year) and this one has affected me more than many of the other books I have read this year. I think it would be a very good book for a book club to read and discuss.