23 reviews

Necessary Lies
by Diane Chamberlain

Published: 2013-09-03
Hardcover : 368 pages
73 members reading this now
90 clubs reading this now
38 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 23 of 23 members

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 ...

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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?

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

See links for reading guide questions (*spoiler alert!*)

Suggested by Members

Should Mental challenged individuals have a right to choose sterilazation or not? Should they know about it or do parents and other asults have the right to take this choice away from them?
by Mjrock (see profile) 05/14/14

With birth control so easily obtained, why are there still so many unwanted pregnancies today?
by Patcochran1 (see profile) 01/21/14

What did you think of Mr. Gardiner's role in the petition for sterilization of Mary Ella and Ivy? Do you think that this situation would have been prevalent at the time?
Jane was very steadfast in her desire to work despite the lack of support from her husband. He insists she is selfish. What do you think drove Ivy to continue? What would you have done?
What do you think of the ongoing battle to provide restitution to the women still living who were unknowing victims of the Eugenics program?
by Lgriffies (see profile) 09/08/13

Is doing the right thing sometimes the wrong thing?
Were you aware of the Eugenics program? What are your thoughts about it?
7-Can a bureaucrat, an uninvolved administrator understand the needs of a client? Is more personal involvement required to make an adequate judgment as to that person’s needs?
by thewanderingjew (see profile) 09/03/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"In this heart-wrenching historical fiction, prolific author Chamberlain focuses on a time in North Carolina’s history that most people would rather forget. It’s 1960, and Jane is a 21-year-old newlywed who’s just accepted a job as a social worker, though her husband, Robert, would rather she stay home like the other country club wives. Her clients—poor tobacco farmers in Grace County, like the Hart family—live in the harsh reality of the rural South, with too many mouths to feed and not much to feed them. Jane is eager to help, until she discovers that part of her job is deciding whether young girls like the vivacious Ivy Hart should be sterilized, in order to keep them from having babies that depend on the state. A captivating look at the little-discussed eugenics program that was responsible for sterilizing more than 7,000 American citizens—some without their knowledge—this engrossing novel digs deep into the moral complexity of a dark period in history and brings it to life."--Publisher's Weekly

Book Club Recommendations

Local service orgaization
by Mjrock (see profile) 05/14/14
Ask your local service organization if they have someone who could talk to your club about what is happening today in regards to sterilization of mentally challenged individuals.....

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "good book"by amanda4633 (see profile) 07/12/14

good book. I liked it.

by Toad73 (see profile) 08/14/14

by Judy2 (see profile) 07/15/14

  "Necessary Lies"by hhrogue (see profile) 07/15/14

Our book club really enjoyed this book. The eugenics program was something we didn't know took place in the USA. It was hard to remember this was fiction, until the end.... felt the ending was a little... (read more)

by joycejoyce18 (see profile) 06/17/14

  "Neccesary Lies"by kathymur92 (see profile) 05/24/14

It was a great story linked with a set of laws that were suprising and shocking,

  "Necessary Lies"by Mjrock (see profile) 05/14/14

When a book is fictional but based on truths it is always going to be a thought provoking book....like how could this happen for real? The book is well written in the fact that you do not know who is black... (read more)

  "Review - Necessary Lies"by AndreaRCooper (see profile) 04/06/14

I really enjoyed the writing and the difference the writer did on the voices of Ivy and Jane. The information and history of this story was intriguing.

  "Necessary lies"by slowcat (see profile) 03/28/14

Quick easy ready. Enjoyed it a lot

  "Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain"by bboulo (see profile) 03/24/14

Eugenics in 1960's in North Carolina, Who knew? This book was so well written I felt like I was on the tobacco farm in the 60's. Diane does an awesome job shining light on not a very proud subject of... (read more)

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