4 reviews

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel
by Diane Chamberlain

Published: 2021-01-05T00:0
Paperback : 416 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 4 members
From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes a novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and one woman’s quest to find the truth…

“A novel about art and secrets...grippingly told...pulls readers toward a shocking conclusion.”?People magazine, ...

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From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes a novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and one woman’s quest to find the truth…

“A novel about art and secrets...grippingly told...pulls readers toward a shocking conclusion.”?People magazine, Best New Books

North Carolina, 2018:

Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold?until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940:

Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

“Chamberlain, a master storyteller, keeps readers hooked, with a story line that leavens history and social commentary with romance and mystery.”?Lexington Dispatch

Editorial Review

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Prologue?Edenton, North Carolina?March 23, 1940
The children knew it was finally spring, so although the air still held the nip of winter and the grass and weeds crunched beneath their feet, they ran through the field and woods, yipping with the anticipation of warmer weather. The two boys and their little sister headed for the creek, drawn to water, as they always were. The girl, only three and not as sure-footed as her brothers, tripped over something and landed face first in the cold water of the creek. Her big brother picked her up before she could start howling, cuddling her close against his thin jacket, a hand-me-down from one cousin or another. He looked down to see what she’d stumbled over and leaped back, dropping his sister to the earth. Grabbing his younger brother’s arm, he pointed. It was a man, lying there, his rumpled clothes sopping wet and his face as white and waxy as the candles their mama kept around the house for when the electric went out, which was every other day, it seemed. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:
1. How does the prologue introduce us to the novel? What does it leave you wondering about? Did it succeed in making you want to read further?

2. The novel alternates between two time frames and voices—did you feel drawn to the past or present narrative and characters more?

3. Both women suffered terrible and unfair hardship in their lives, can you relate to how they react to it and the choices they make?

4. In the present-day narrative, everyone speculates that Anna lost her mind, and that’s why the mural was finished the way it was. Before what happened to her was revealed, what did you suspect? Were you surprised by what did happen?

5. The novel tackles a lot of tough subject matter within the alternating story-lines. Was there one plot point that resonated with you more than the others?

6. For both of these characters, the mural and art become part of a healing process. For Anna, it is the death of her mother while, for Morgan, it is the accident and time in prison. Is there something similar in your life that has helped you heal from trauma and hardship?

7. As you were reading, did you expect Oliver and Morgan to fall in love? Why or why not? Do you think Oliver is good for Morgan, and vice versa?

8. How did you react to Jesse helping Anna to cover up the murder and in doing so abandoning his life? Do you agree with Anna’s decision to allow him to do so?

9. In chapter 67, Anna and Morgan’s connection is revealed, as is Jesse’s reasoning for requesting that Morgan restore the mural. Did you anticipate this connection?

10. The revelation about Judith Shipley’s true identity is a huge twist at the end of the novel. Did you suspect anything about this? Do you agree with her decision to change her identity completely and start a new life? Would you have come back all those years later?

11. Morgan spends a lot of time thinking about Emily Maxwell and how her actions impacted her life. What do you think about her decision to visit her in the end? Would you have done the same? How do you imagine that visit went?

12. What do you think the future has in store for Morgan?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by grace a. (see profile) 01/13/24

by Paula D. (see profile) 07/04/23

by Sherrie G. (see profile) 08/08/22

by mare m. (see profile) 08/24/21

I liked it. Suspenseful and intriguing

by Deanna D. (see profile) 05/09/21

by Karen K. (see profile) 03/23/21

by Linda T. (see profile) 02/03/21

It was really good! Sad that these things happen!

  "Another Page Turner by Diane Chamberlain"by Kathy M. (see profile) 01/20/21

I loved this book - it's been a while since I just couldn't put a book down. I was actually listening to this in my car so I came up with excuses to drive.

You go back and forth between t

... (read more)

  "Great story with a twist"by Sandie D. (see profile) 10/02/20

I thought this story approached both from the 1940s and 2018, was a great mystery about art and a story about it's creation. The story held my interest every minute and had a great ending that answered... (read more)

by ginger s. (see profile) 09/25/20

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