Set in the rural American South of 1960, Necessary Lies tells the parallel stories of Ivy Hart, a fifteen-year-old tenant on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, and Jane Forrester, her young social worker, newly married to a doctor and surrounded by a society that doesn’t understand her desire to do good in this small corner of the world bristling with injustice.
Ivy and the farm owner’s son are in love and meeting secretly. She is also epileptic, has an older sister who is an unwed mother of a two-year-old, and an aging and diabetic grandmother whose family’s needs are way beyond what she can provide. Against all advice, Jane bonds with the family, especially Ivy, and is horrified to learn that her sister has already been a victim of state-mandated sterilization without her knowledge or consent. Ivy is scheduled for the same, once the pregnancy that’s resulted with her boyfriend ends with birth and adoption. With everyone telling her what she’s doing is wrong, Jane uncovers the lies and secrets of this community and intervenes, changing the lives and futures of both her client and herself.
Diane Chamberlain proves once again that she is the master of the American Southern Gothic. Full of telling detail and never afraid of tenderness, this fearless novel makes the heart break, but also soar. Highly recommended.