By: Diane Chamberlain

Published: September 3, 2013


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 305

Chamberlain 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.

Diane Chamberlain – source

Diane Chamberlain is an international best-selling author and has written twenty-one novels. She lives and writes in North Carolina, the state which has become her true home and has also spawned many settings for her stories. She lives with her significant other, John, a photographer, and two sweet Shetland Sheepdogs, Keeper and Cole. She has three grown stepdaughters, a couple of sons-in-law and four grandbabies. For more on Chamberlain, check out her website, You can also find her on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE

To purchase NECESSARY LIES, click the photo below:

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  1. Becky G on April 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Looks like this is going on my summer reading list! Thanks!

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