Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Necessary Lies- A Review and a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Vida Zuljevic who won the good braider audio recording in last week's giveaway.

I met Diane Chamberlain at WNBA's Bibliofeast in 2013 and purchased her book, Necessary Lies, despite telling myself that I had enough books and wasn't going to buy one more! But when I saw it was set in North Carolina and written from two points of view--I couldn't resist. Another fortunate blog reader will be glad I did. When I confessed to Diane via Facebook that I couldn't part with my autographed copy, she indicated that her publicist would probably donate a copy as a giveaway. Thanks to Katie Bassel of St. Martin's Press, one of you will receive a free copy. Directions for entering this contest follow my review of this thought-provoking adult historical novel.

Necessary Lies documents an important story: the Eugenics Sterilization Program that sterilized over 7000 North Carolinians between 1929-1975. Set in the sixties, Diane Chamberlain does an excellent job portraying the internal and external conflicts her two protagonists face.

Jane Forrester is a 22-year-old idealistic newlywed who is eager to help people in her new job as a social worker. Her life is irrevocably changed when she meets her client Ivy Hart, a poor 15-year-old who is struggling to hold her family together. Ivy's father is dead, her mother is institutionalized; her grandmother (Nonnie) is ailing and doesn't take her diabetes medication; her 17-year-old sister (Mary Ella) is beautiful but feeble-minded; and her two-year-old nephew (William) is often neglected and shows signs of slow development.

The reality of Ivy's world shocks Jane on her first visit to the Hart's home; a shack on the tobacco farm where the girls are day laborers.  In this conversation with Charlotte, the caseworker whose caseload she will be assuming, Jane begins to assess the situation and Chamberlain foreshadows the problems she will encounter:

    "Mary Ella was kicked out of school when she became pregnant at fourteen," Charlotte said. "Once they're pregnant, that's the end of their education."
    "Fourteen!" I said.
    "Fifteen when she delivered."
    "Who's the baby's father?" I asked.
    Charlotte hesitated. "I doubt even Mary Ella knows," she said. "I have my suspicions but that's all they are. Mary Ella's blond as blond can be, but the baby's got very dark, very curly hair. His skin is fair enough, enough. He'll be able to pass."
     "Oh," I said, taking that in.
     "Don't put anything like that in your notes," she warned. "The last thing that girl needs is for people to think she's had relations with a colored boy, and a lynch mob would find out which one it was, you better believe it. Or they'd make a guess, which could be even worse. I didn't even mention my suspicions to the Eugenics Board."
    "The Eugenics Board? For her, too? Are they going to sterilize her?"
     "They already have," she said. "She's feeble-minded. IQ of seventy. But she doesn't know about the sterilization. Her grandmother and I agreed it was best to tell her she was having her appendix out."
     My mouth dropped open and Charlotte glanced over a me. "Sometimes you have to come up with creative ways of helping people, Jane," she said.
     "But it's so...dishonest," I said.
      "It's actually a kindness. You'll realize that soon enough. She can only understand so much, and she absolutely can't handle another child. She's out of control and I worry Ivy's starting to follow in her footsteps. Mary Ella's very pretty and Ivy's a little plainer and she's a big girl. Not overweight, but not lithe, like her sister."
    I instantly related to Ivy. I knew what it was like to be the "plainer" sister.
    "Ivy's still in school," Charlotte said, "and my goal--now your goal--will be to keep her there till she finishes. The main thing is to prevent her from having a baby of her own because that'll put an end to her education."
    "Is Ivy...feebleminded, too?" I asked. I'd rarely used that word.
     "Her IQ's about eighty," Charlotte said. "Low, but not feebleminded, which is a shame because it would make it easier to petition the Eugenics Board on her behalf." (p. 65-6)

Meanwhile, Ivy's world revolves around Henry Allen, the tobacco farmer's son. When they secretly rendezvous at night, they listen to the radio and look at books about California. Again, the reader sees life through Ivy's eyes and what's in store for her:

     We went through all the pages. There was trees as big around as the tobacco barns and foggy cliffs called Big Sur and rocks in the ocean covered with seals and big black birds. There was actual palm trees. How could one place have so many different beautiful parts to it? I felt that ache in my chest again as he turned the pages. I wanted to step inside the book and live that beautiful life. Henry Allen said everybody in California was rich and had swimming pools in their own yards. I wished California was right next door to Grace County and I could walk over there tomorrow.
    "Which place you want to live?" Henry Allen asked.
    "Any of 'em."
    "No, get serious. Let's pick our top place from these here pictures."
    "Someplace by the water."
    He turned the pages and I stopped him. "There, I said, pointing to a pretty little tree standing all alone, way out on a cliff above the ocean. "This place."
    "Monterey," he said. "Okay, then. That's our destination. Monterey, California."
    "What about you, though? Which place do you want to live at?"
    "Wherever you are," he said.
     My throat got tight. "What if I'm here, Henry Allen? What if I can't never leave?" Me and Henry Allen used to say we'd run off after we finished school, which meant three more years for me and two for him, but I couldn't see how I'd ever be able to leave Mary Ella or Nonnie or Baby William. Everything would fall to pieces without me. I felt sad all of a sudden. All me and Henry Allen had was the dream. So we didn't talk about the when no more. Just the where.
    All day long, I worried about other people. Was Nonnie going to have to start getting shots for her sugar? Was Baby William ever going to say more words than "mama" or would he be one of them dumb goys other kids picked on? Would Mary Ella get herself in trouble again? Worry worry worry. But when I was with Henry Allen like I was right now, him slipping my nightgown over my head and pressing his body into mine, so gentle and sweet, I could forget about everything except him and me and our dreams about the future. (p. 31-32, 33)
Jane works hard at gaining Ivy's trust, but their tenuous relationship explodes when the Department of Public Welfare presses Jane into submitting a petition for Ivy's sterilization. When
Jane defies her employer's orders and bring Ivy into her own home, Ivy discovers Jane's secrets--thus changing Ivy's life too:

    "Yes." It was her turn  to put down a card, but she just stared at the cards in her hand like she wasn't really seeing them. She looked up at me. "I lost both my father and my sister," she said. "Just like you."
    I couldn't believe it. I thought of her as a lady with a perfect life, especially now that I seen her house.   I felt like anybody could look at me and know I lost too much. I never would of guessed she had, too....
    "I looked at the picture another minute. Mrs. Forrester and her sister was both smiling. Both of them happy girls. Maybe happier than me and Mary Ella ever was. "You and me," I said, "we both go the same kind of hurt inside us."
    She nodded, and suddenly, just like that, I knew I could trust her with my life. (p.290, 292)

Since I am writing historical fiction set in North Carolina in 1950, I was interested in how Chamberlain used vernacular to give her characters voice and make them true to the time period and setting. I work at understanding my character's core values and knowing what makes them tick. Ivy and Jane's core values ring clear throughout the book: people should be free to make choices that will effect them and their futures.

There is much that one can say about this outstanding novel. But if you are a writer and are familiar with Blake Snyder's beats from Save the Cat, you'll be impressed with the opening and final images. Like bookends, a third narrator, Brenna, brings the book full circle.  
I could say more, but I don't want to include too many spoilers! Instead, here's your chance to win this book and read it yourself:

1. Leave me a comment. PLEASE leave your email address if you are new to this blog.
2. Become a follower to this blog and/or share the blog on your favorite social media site. Let me know what you do, and I'll add your name an additional time for each time you share it.
3. Enter by Friday night, June 6th. 



Sandra Warren said...

Sign me up for the give-away. This story sounds intriguing.

There are so many stories based on historical fact that we would never know about if it weren't for authors who spotlight them in their writing.

If I don't win, I just may have to buy this one myself. Thanks for sharing it.

Carol Baldwin said...

You are first in, Sandra!

sheri levy said...

Love it! You've found another amazing novel to share! I enjoy reading your blog and gain so much from it.
Thanks, Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Sheri. There are some amazing novels and novelists out there!

Rosi said...

This book sounds terrific. I will definitely be reading it. Thanks for telling me about it. I posted your link on Facebook. I haven't even posted my own yet this week!

Shannon Hitchcock said...

I actually know a person who was sterilized under this program. A fascinating subject.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi and Shannon for commenting. Your names go in the hat!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Incredible, Carol. I wanted to keep reading. Please don't give this book to anyone but me. Oh, wait, that's being selfish, isn't it?

At any rate - it is necessary for you to enter me in the contest.

Excellent intro.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, JOyce. And fortunately for you, I held on to my copy to pass around to my friends. Uncle Bob has it now, but eventually it'll be back up in NC--just in case you don't win, that is.

Dorene said...

I'm working on my first creative non-fiction piece and I love reading historical fiction pieces because they are cousins to texts that contain truth. I would love to read this novel because this is one social issue/injustice that we don't hear enough about and the persons it involved are aging so their story should be told. And, Carol, I'm looking forward to some of the workshops you are conducting in the Charlotte area libraries this summer.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

No one gives voice to untold stories like writers. It is what we do. Thanks for sharing this book with your readers, Carol. Yes, count me in for the drawing.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Dorene and Clara. Yes, writers do have an important job--you said it perfectly Clara! ANd Dorene, there's a lot in common between historical fiction and creative non-fiction. Thanks for your comments, friends!

Unknown said...

This novel sounds unbelievable! I read Ms. Chamberlain's book The Midwife's Confession and loved it so much I passed it along to my mom. She in turn loved it so much she has been reading every Diane Chamberlain book she can get her hands on :)! I would love to win a copy of this book so I can read it as soon as possible. I had no idea this eugenics program was going on!


Unknown said...

I became a GFC follower (Colleen Turner)!

Kim@Time2Read said...

This is our book club selection for July. I was only lukewarm about it until I read your review. Now I can't wait!

time2read2 at gmail

I shared this on my blog

also on my FB page

and with my book club in our FB group

new follower via Feedly

Linda A. said...

Great review with no big spoilers. Thanks for that. What a great novel! I'm so glad you shared about it.

Enter me in the drawing, please.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Recently discovered Diane and am a new fan. Thanks for the post and the opportunity.

I have read a nonfiction book about this program, it is both fascinating and scary.

Tanya @ Moms Small Victories said...

I love Diane Chamberlain's books. She always has interesting plot lines and complex characters. I haven't read this one yet so thanks for the chance to win it!

Momssmallvictories (at) gmail(dot) com.

Tanya @ Moms Small Victories said...

I +1'ed it on my Google+ page and shared on my blog Facebook page too. Thanks for the chance to win!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a fabulous read.
I follow by email.


Linda Phillips said...

This sounds like a terrific read. Please drop my name in and I'm off to FB with a good word!

Carol Baldwin said...

I've been away from my computer all day and pretty much overwhelmed with the demand for this book! thanks Coleen. Kim, Tanya, LInda A, LInda P, Rita and Julia for entering and sharing via social media. This is one hot giveaway!!

Ellen said...

I love reading historical fiction and this book sounds intriguing. I am now going to follow your blog and I have a feeling I'll be reading more of your books, too!

Ellen said...

I love reading historical fiction, and your novel sounds fascinating. I will be following your blog and will no doubt be reading more of your books!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Ellen. Happy to have you on board as a new follower. I love reading and giving away books--hope you get to win one!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I am so glad I found your blog and this review; I just wish I had a copy of the book so that I could begin reading it tonight! I have signed up to receive your blog and I would like to be entered in the drawing. Thank you!

debb1955 said...

I love Diane Chamberlain and have read almost all of her books. I have not read Necessary Lies, yet but would love to win it. Thanks so much for making it available as a giveaway.
Deb Brennan

Unknown said...

I'm a follower and I would love to win this book. I've been looking forward to reading it-I LOVE Diane's books! I also review books on my blog at www.simplyhealthymama.com! My e-mail is simplyhealthymama@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks Laura, Debb, and Connie. I entered all your names and appreciate you following my blog.

Laura Kay said...

Necessary Lies sounds like a book I would enjoy reading. Thanks for sharing! I've read one book by Diane before and really was impressed with her writing.

Laura Kay

I'm following by email

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Laura. You're in!

Anna E. G. said...

This sounds like an amazing story, add me to the give-away please! :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Anna, for your comment here and on my mother's artwork. I need some inspiration today as I get back into my WIP--I'll take your words along to help me!

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