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Readers' Comments for Necessary Lies

In October, a select group of readers who participated in one of our special contests won copies of NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, it’s the story of two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. A social worker and a 15-year-old are thrown together and must ask themselves: How can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong? Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this moving novel about a troubling time in U.S. history --- and make sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

I love Diane Chamberlain and have read almost all of her books. I keep some to read in between others because they are so good!!!

I read NECESSARY LIES in less than a week and loved it. Every book of Diane's can easily suck you in within one chapter. She can detail characters so well without dragging you through senseless details that you feel as though you know them all! I am so happy to say this book did not disappoint me in any way!

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good read that is also full of twists and turns and an ending that will leave you still wanting more only because you want to keep the characters alive.

Diane could easily write another book detailing the missing years between the characters. It would be an awesome book even if you know the outcome!

I just couldn't put it down and it took all I had not to jump to the last page, halfway through to see what happens.

I could go on...but I am not very good with my words when it comes to such a great book!

Thank you so much for sending me this and it was such a surprise to find it in my mailbox. I was reading another book and had to quickly finish that one to start this one! I was so excited!!!!

NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain is a powerfully moving story set in rural North Carolina in 1960. It tells the story of a young woman, Jane, newly married to a pediatrician, who wants her own career helping others. She has recently graduated from Woman's College and gets a job as a social worker in the welfare office, overseeing clients in a rural, poverty-stricken county near Raleigh.

On the job she meets the Hart family: two teenage girls being raised by their grandmother in a small tenant house on a tobacco farm owned by Davison Gardiner. The younger of the two, Ivy, basically oversees the household as her aging grandmother has serious health issues and her feeble-minded sister, Mary Ella, has a two-year-old son who needs looking after.

Jane is warned by her superior, Charlotte Werkmann, not to get overly invested or personally involved with her clients. The hallmark of good, effective social work among the county's population is to stay detached in order to keep the proper perspective on the needs of the children and families she serves.

Jane learns that North Carolina's "eugenics" program --- the routine sterilization of not just those who are institutionalized, but any and all who fall below an IQ of 70, those who have epilepsy, or those who are deemed unlikely to ever get off the welfare rolls --- has already sterilized Mary Ella without her knowledge or consent, and now have their sights on doing the same to her younger sister, Ivy. The better she gets to know the Hart girls, the more outraged she becomes at the system which seems to offer these girls no choice.

Diane Chamberlain's NECESSARY LIES grabbed me right from the first page. I had a hard time putting it down.  

I would recommend this novel to women.

In 1960, Jane, a social worker assigned to a poor family living as tenants and working on a small tobacco farm in North Carolina gets too emotionally involved with this family, especially Ivy, the youngest female.  Even though Jane and Ivy come from different worlds, they share similar tragedies in their lives. The social worker is fighting the system to do what she thinks is right when everyone else disagrees. 

Gilda --- This comment contains mild SPOILERS.
NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain broke my heart. No, it didn’t break it --- it shattered it. Taking place in the 1960s, it’s the story of the Eugenics Program in North Carolina, and it opened my eyes to something that seems horrific in today’s world --- the sterilization of young girls and boys without their knowledge. It is told from two viewpoints. One is Ivy Hart, a 15-year-old who is pregnant, and the other is Jane Forrester, a newly hired and inexperienced social worker. Ivy’s sister, Mary Ella, wants to have five children. When she finds out about her sterilization she does something that devastates the family. Ivy, with the help of Jane, is determined not to be sterilized. So many things happen that are so wrong and Jane is forced to do what she does not want to do and that includes filing the paperwork to have Ivy sterilized and then hiding Ivy (or “kidnapping” as the police say). The characters are so vivid, I felt like I knew them all personally. Ms. Chamberlain has written a very important story about the abuse of power, how the poor struggle so hard to survive, and how someone who you believed was helping you was actually using you. There are so many underlying wrongs, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But I will say that I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction. I learned a lot about a program I had only vaguely heard of, and I learned a lot about how people dealt with it. Jane is my hero. Please, read this book. You won’t regret it.

I'm so thrilled to have won a copy of NECESSARY LIES and absolutely devoured the book. Chamberlain is an incredibly talented author and this is the best book I've read this year. Her compassion for her characters is evident and the way she captured the voice of Ivy Hart to tell her beautiful and heartbreaking story was incredible. I learned so much about a topic I'd never even before considered --- North Carolina's eugenics program --- and the ethical and moral struggles Jane faced were so powerful that I became so emotionally invested in both Jane and Ivy's well being.

Bravo to Chamberlain for such an emotionally touching and well-researched book!

I read a lot of Southern fiction, but for some unknown reason this author was not on my radar, and I had never read anything by her before. Since reading this book, I have added her to my list of favorite authors and ordered several of her earlier books.

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 on it. It’s 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.

Again thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

This was my first exposure to author Diane Chamberlain; nonetheless, I was hooked by the third chapter and read the book in one sitting. The story revolves around the Hard family: grandmother, Nonnie; oldest daughter, Mary Ella; Mary Ella’s son Baby William; and younger daughter, Ivy. They are working on a tobacco farm where the owner also provides them with a very small house to live in and a tiny bit of land to plant vegetables. There is no running water or indoor plumbing. These people are living in the most meager way that they qualify for welfare from the state of North Carolina. The timeframe is 1960.

Into their lives comes Jane Forrester, newly minted social worker, just out of college. She has no previous experience in social work but she feels that her common sense and empathy will get her through. Almost immediately, she comes into conflict with rules that govern social workers in North Carolina. She leads with her heart and not her head. She is especially attracted to the Hart family and their particular set of problems. The situation puts her marriage to a doctor in serious jeopardy.

Over the course of the book, we are reminded about a Eugenics project that was practiced by many states during the beginning of the 20th century and was carried out by social workers in the course of their daily work. This program immediately horrifies Jane, especially as it impacts the Hart family. She tries to get around it any way she can, but is thwarted at every turn.

I was impacted by how the poverty and ignorance of basic bodily functions traps this family in a web that is impossible for them to escape or understand.

This story also includes some family connections in the community that have been hidden for years, as well as abuse of women by someone with authority or power over them.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this particular era in the South, the Eugenics program and its social and economic impact and anyone with a heart. --- This comment contains SPOILERS.
I did enjoy this book, although I felt that it was a bit slow to begin. Once I got into the book, I could not stop reading, which I did in one day. This book was an eye-opener for me about poverty, welfare in the 1960s, even though I lived through that time. I was not happy to read about the Eugenics program and sterilization of unknowing women who were poor and had health concerns. Jane was a strong woman, but impulsive. When she married, she was adamant about her career. Staying at home as a homemaker was not her interest at this time. Her doctor husband was not happy. I do not like that she deceived him about birth control. Her impulsive nature caused her to do things she should not have done, i.e. beach, hiding Ivy. I have mixed feelings about the ending. The author left us to figure out for ourselves that Jane and Gavin and Brenna became a family. I would like to have known what became of William. This book is a prime book for book clubs. The discussions would be about ethics, moral issues, living conditions of some in society and the Welfare Department scenarios, to name a few. My own book club will be reading the book. Thanks for opportunity to have read and report about NECESSARY LIES.

I just finished the book NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain, which I won from the Women's Fiction Contest. I loved the book. I moved to Charlotte, NC five and half years ago and was not aware of this part of North Carolina's history until an article appeared in the Charlotte Observer a few weeks ago about the Eugenics program and how the governor passed a bill that would compensate the people affected. I guess I'm pretty naïve because I had no idea things like this went on. It was quite an eye opener for me.

The story surrounding this program, which Diane Chamberlain wrote about, was so moving. I loved the characters, Ivy and Jane, and really felt they were written in such a human way that you could relate to. I also liked that the author did not write in a preachy, soapbox way, although it could have so easily been done that way. I loved the ending and was so glad she tied up all the ends and we got to find out what happened to Ivy. I was worried that would not be the case once I got toward the end.

It's so shocking to me that things like this really happened in our country, that a few people wielded so much power over the less fortunate. It's so sad really. I realize things were very different back then. I am so glad things have changed!

I definitely plan to recommend this book to others. I think it would make a great book for our book club. So many moral and other issues to discuss. I'm quite sure it will get passed around to many people.

I just finished reading NECESSARY LIES and wanted to comment on how much I enjoyed the book. It was definitely an interesting read and very thought provoking. I would recommend this book to college students as well as adults. It might be a good read for debate classes or psychology classes. I would tell them it raises issues about social class and sterilization, which I found to be the most interesting topic. You become very involved in the characters in the book, mainly because situations like this did exist. 

I will be passing my copy along to all my friends in my book club.