Necessary Lies: A Novel

Necessary Lies: A Novel

by Diane Chamberlain


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250010698
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/03/2013
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

DIANE CHAMBERLAIN is the bestselling author of twenty-two novels published in more than eleven languages. She lives in North Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole.

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Necessary Lies

A Novel

By Diane Chamberlain

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Diane Chamberlain Books, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-01070-4


JUNE 22, 2011


It was an odd request—visit a stranger's house and peer inside a closet—and as I drove through the neighborhood searching for the address, I felt my anxiety mounting.

There it was: number 247. I hadn't expected the house to be so large. It stood apart from its neighbors on the gently winding road, flanked on either side by huge magnolia trees, tall oaks, and crape myrtle. It was painted a soft buttery yellow with white trim, and everything about it looked crisp and clean in the early morning sun. Every house I'd passed, although different in architecture, had the same stately yet inviting look. I didn't know Raleigh well at all, but this had to be one of the most beautiful old neighborhoods in the city.

I parked close to the curb and headed up the walk. Potted plants lined either side of the broad steps that led up to the wraparound porch. I glanced at my watch. I had an hour before I needed to be back at the hotel. No rush, though my nerves were really acting up. There was so much I hoped would go well today, and so much of it was out of my control.

I rang the bell and heard it chime inside the house. I could see someone pass behind the sidelight and then the door opened. The woman—forty, maybe? At least ten years younger than me—smiled, although that didn't mask her harried expression. I felt bad for bothering her this early. She wore white shorts, a pink striped T-shirt, and tennis shoes, and sported a glowing tan. She was the petite, toned, and well-put-together sort of woman that always made me feel sloppy, even though I knew I looked fine in my black pants and blue blouse.

"Brenna?" She ran her fingers through her short-short, spiky blond hair.

"Yes," I said. "And you must be Jennifer."

Jennifer peered behind me. "She's not with you?" she asked.

I shook my head. "I thought she'd come, but at the last minute she said she just couldn't."

Jennifer nodded. "Today must be really hard for her." She took a step back from the doorway. "Come on in," she said. "My kids are done with school for the summer, but they have swim-team practice this morning, so we're in luck. We have the house to ourselves. The kids are always too full of questions."

"Thanks." I walked past her into the foyer. I was glad no one else was home. I wished I had the house totally to myself, to be honest. I would have loved to explore it. But that wasn't why I was here.

"Can I get you anything?" Jennifer asked. "Coffee?"

"No, I'm good, thanks."

"Well, come on then. I'll show you."

She led me to the broad, winding staircase and we climbed it without speaking, my shoes on the shiny dark hardwood treads making the only sound.

"How long have you been in the house?" I asked when we reached the second story.

"Five years," she said. "We redid everything. I mean, we painted every single room and every inch of molding. And every closet, too, except for that one."

"Why didn't you paint that one?" I asked as I followed her down a short hallway.

"The woman we bought the house from specifically told us not to. She said that the couple she'd bought the house from had also told her not to, but nobody seemed to understand why not. The woman we bought it from showed us the writing. My husband thought we should just paint over it—I think he was spooked by it—but I talked him out of it. It's a closet. What would it hurt to leave it unpainted?" We'd reached the closed door at the end of the hall. "I had no idea what it meant until I spoke to you on the phone." She pushed open the door. "It's my daughter's room now," she said, "so excuse the mess."

It wasn't what I'd call messy at all. My twin daughters' rooms had been far worse. "How old's your daughter?" I asked.

"Ten. Thus the Justin Bieber obsession." She swept her arm through the air to take in the lavender room and its nearly wall-to-wall posters.

"It only gets worse." I smiled. "I barely survived my girls' teen years." I thought of my family—my husband and my daughters and their babies—up in Maryland and suddenly missed them. I hoped I'd be home by the weekend, when all of this would be over.

Jennifer opened the closet door. It was a small closet, the type you'd find in these older homes, and it was crammed with clothes on hangers and shoes helter-skelter on the floor. I felt a chill, as though a ghost had slipped past me into the room. I hugged my arms as Jennifer pulled a cord to turn on the light. She pressed the clothes to one side of the closet.

"There," she said, pointing to the left wall at about the level of my knees. "Maybe we need a flashlight?" she asked. "Or I can just take a bunch of these clothes out. I should have done that before you got here." She lifted an armload of the clothes and struggled to disengage the hangers before carrying them from the closet. Without the clothing, the closet filled with light and I squatted inside the tight space, pushing pink sneakers and a pair of sandals out of my way.

I ran my fingers over the words carved into the wall. Ancient paint snagged my fingertips where it had chipped away around the letters. "Ivy and Mary was here." All at once, I felt overwhelmed by the fear they must have felt back then, and by their courage. When I stood up, I was brushing tears from my eyes.

Jennifer touched my arm. "You okay?" she asked.

"Fine," I said. "I'm grateful to you for not covering that over. It makes it real to me."

"If we ever move out of this house, we'll tell the new owners to leave it alone, too. It's a little bit of history, isn't it?"

I nodded. I remembered my phone in my purse. "May I take a picture of it?"

"Of course!" Jennifer said, then added with a laugh, "Just don't get my daughter's messy closet in it."

I pulled out my phone and knelt down near the writing on the wall. I snapped the picture and felt the presence of a ghost again, but this time it wrapped around me like an embrace.




I swept the ground by the tobacco barn, hoping for a chance to talk to Henry Allen. He was on the other side of the field, though, working with the mules, and it didn't look like he'd be done soon. No point in me staying any longer. All the day labor was gone already and if Mr. Gardiner spotted me he'd wonder why I was still here. Mary Ella was gone, too, of course. I didn't want to know which of the boys—or men—she went off with. Most likely she was someplace in the woods. Down by the crick, maybe, where the trees and that tangle of honeysuckle made a private place where you could do anything. I knew that place so well. Maybe Mary Ella knew it, too. Henry Allen told me "just don't think about it," so I tried to put it out of my head. My sister was going to do what she wanted to do. Nothing me or nobody else could do about it. I told her we couldn't have another baby in the house and she gave me that hollow-eyed look like I was speaking a foreign tongue. Couldn't get through to Mary Ella when she gave you that look. She was seventeen—two years older than me—but you'd think I was her mama trying to keep her on the straight-and-narrow path to heaven. Some days I felt like I was everybody's mama.

I headed home down Deaf Mule Road where it ran between two tobacco fields that went on forever and ever. I couldn't look at all them acres and acres of tobacco we still had to get in. My fingers was still sticky with tar from that day's work. Even my hair felt like it had tar in it, and as I walked down the road, I lifted one blond end of my hair from under my kerchief and checked it, but it just looked like my plain old hair. Dried hay. That's what Nonnie said about my hair one time. My own grandma, and she didn't care about hurting my feelings. It was true, though. Mary Ella got the looks in our family. Roses in her cheeks. Full head of long wild curls, the color of sweet corn. Carolina-blue eyes. "Them looks of hers is a curse," Nonnie always said. "She walks out the door and every boy in Grace County loses his good sense."

I took off my shoes and the dust from the road felt soft beneath my feet. Maybe the best thing I felt all day. Every time I did that—walked barefoot on the dirt road between the Gardiners' two-story farmhouse and our little house—I felt like I was walking on Mama's old ragged black velveteen shawl. That was practically the only thing we had left of hers. I used to sleep with it, but now with Baby William sharing the bed with me and Mary Ella, there wasn't no room for nothing bigger than my memory of Mama, and after all these years, that was just a little slip of a thing.

I came to the end of the road where it dipped into the woods. The path got rough here with tree roots and rocks but I knew where every one of them was. I put my shoes back on before I came to the open area with the chigger weeds and by then I could hear Baby William howling. He was going at it good and Nonnie was hollerin' at him to shut it, so I started running before she could get to the point of hitting him. For all I knew she'd been hitting him all afternoon. Nonnie wasn't all that mean, but when her rheumatism made her hands hot and red, her fuse was right short. She said she raised our daddy, then me and Mary Ella, and she thought she was done with the raising. Then all of a sudden, Baby William came along.

"I'm here!" I called as I ran into our yard. The bike me and Mary Ella shared was on its side in the dirt and I jumped over it and ran around the woodpile. Baby William stood on the stoop, saggy diaper hanging halfway down his fat legs, his face all red and tears making paths through the dirt on his cheeks. His black curls was so thick they looked like a wig on his head. He raised his arms out to me when he saw me.

"I'm here, baby boy!" I said, and I scooped him up. He settled right away like always, his body shaking with the end of his crying. Now, if Mary Ella was with me, it'd be her he'd reach for—he knew his mama—but right now he was mine. "Gotcha, sweet baby," I whispered in his ear.

I looked through the open doorway of our house, trying to see where Nonnie was, but it was dark in there and all I could see was the end of the ratty sofa where the sunlight lit on it from the open doorway. Nonnie kept the shades drawn all day to keep the house cooler. Mr. Gardiner put electricity in our house when I was little, but you'd swear Nonnie hadn't figured out how to work it yet. Didn't matter. The only real light in the house was the one I held in my arms.

"Let's get you changed," I said, climbing the stoop and walking into the house. I drew up the crackling old shades at the two front windows to let some light in and the dust motes took to floating around the room. Nonnie showed up in the doorway to the kitchen. She had a bundle of folded diapers and towels in her left arm and she leaned on her cane with her free hand.

"Mary Ella ain't with you?" she asked, like that was out of the ordinary.

"No." I kissed her cheek and I could of swore her hair had more gray in it than just that morning when she spent a few hours helping with the barning. She was turning into an old lady before my eyes, with big puffy arms and three chins and walking bent over. She already had the sugar and the high blood and I had this worry of losing her. You got to expecting it after a while, things going wrong. I wasn't no pessimist, though. Mrs. Rex, my science teacher two years ago, told me I was one of them people that looked on the bright side of things. I thought of Mrs. Rex every time I started to say the word "ain't" and changed it to "isn't." "You can't get anywhere in life talking dumb," she told us. Not that I was exactly getting anywhere in life.

I took the laundry from Nonnie with my free hand, catching a whiff of sunshine from the towels. "Maybe she's getting some extras from Mr. Gardiner," I said, trying to think positive. I wanted to wipe the scowl off Nonnie's face. Once or twice a week, Mr. Gardiner, Henry Allen's daddy who owned all them acres and acres of tobacco, gave Mary Ella things from his own personal garden—and sometimes his smokehouse—for us. He could just as easy hand them to me, but her being the oldest seemed to mean something to him. Or maybe it was that she was a mama now and he thought the food should go to Baby William. I didn't know. All I knew was that we needed them extras. Mr. Gardiner took care of us in a lot of ways. He gave us a Frigidaire and a new woodstove so big the heat could reach the bedroom as long as we left the door open—and since the door didn't close all the way, that was easy. Nonnie was about to ask for indoor plumbing when Mary Ella started sprouting her belly. Then Nonnie decided she better not ask for nothing more.

"Did Mary Ella tell him about them deer getting into our garden again?" she asked. The deer got into our garden no matter how much fencing I put around the little bit of good soil Mr. Gardiner let us work for ourselves.

"Yes," I said, though it was me who told him. Mary Ella didn't like talking to Mr. Gardiner so much. She wasn't a big talker to begin with.

"Got your wages?" Nonnie asked, like she did every day.

"I'll give 'em to you soon as I change this boy," I said, walking to the bedroom. Mr. Gardiner paid us pennies compared to his other workers, but he let us live here for nothing, so we never complained.

I plunked Baby William down on the bed and started tickling the daylights out of him because I wanted to hear him giggle. We rolled around on the bed for a couple minutes, both of us getting the worries of the day out of ourselves. Sometimes I just liked to stare at that boy, he was so beautiful. Black curls like satin when you ran your fingers through them. Black eyelashes, long and thick. Eyes so dark they was nearly black, too. Mary Ella's hair was even lighter than mine. I didn't like to think where Baby William might of got all that black from.

There was a rustle of the trees outside the window and Baby William looked in that direction. We worried early on he might be deaf 'cause he didn't seem to care about noises and Mrs. Werkman and Nurse Ann said he might need a deaf school, so now every time he heard something, I celebrated inside.

"Mama?" he asked, lifting his head to look through the window. It was about the only word he knew, which Mrs. Werkman said wasn't right. He should have more words by two, she said. I didn't like how she was always finding something wrong with him. I told her he was just quiet like Mary Ella. Not a jabbermouth, like me.

"It's just a breeze out there," I said, nuzzling his sweaty little neck. "Mama'll be home soon."

I hoped I wasn't lying.

* * *

In the kitchen, I fed Baby William on my lap while Nonnie made salad from the last of a chicken we'd been eating most of the week. It was getting near dusk and Mary Ella still wasn't home. Baby William wasn't hungry. He kept pushing my hand away and the chunks of squash fell off the spoon.

"He's always a crab at suppertime," Nonnie said.

"No he ain't," I said. I hated how she talked about him like that. I bet she talked about me and Mary Ella that way when we was little, too. "He just needs some cuddling, don't you, Baby William?" I rocked him and he hung on to me like a monkey. Mrs. Werkman said we shouldn't hold him when we feed him no more. He should sit on a chair at the table, up on the block of wood me and Mary Ella sat on when we was little, but I just loved holding him and he crabbed less on my lap. Sometimes when I held Baby William like that, I thought I could remember my own mama holding me that way.

"I doubt that," Nonnie said when I told her that one day. "She wasn't much for holding y'all."

But I remembered it. Maybe I only imagined it, but that was near as good.

Nonnie scooped Duke's mayonnaise out of the jar and mixed it into the salad, looking out the window the whole time. "Gonna be dark before you know it," she said. "You better go see if you can find your sister. That girl forgets her way home sometime."

I let Baby William eat a piece of squash with his fingers. "No telling where she is, Nonnie," I said, but I knew I had to try or we'd both be worrying half the night. I stood up, handing Nonnie the baby and the spoon, and she set him on the wooden block. He let out a howl and she clamped her hand over his mouth.


Excerpted from Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain. Copyright © 2013 Diane Chamberlain Books, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Necessary Lies 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
I received an advance reading copy of Necessary Lies and could not wait to dive in! I stayed up all night and finished it this morning! An extraordinary and inspirational novel-cannot stop thinking about it----Diane did an outstanding job with a complex topic and her excellent research skills were definitely reflective throughout the book with careful plot planning and storytelling. Her best work thus far! From the character development (loved Jane/Ivy), the dialect, insight, the setting – she nailed it! A beautiful story of loss, love, struggles, difficult choices, and redemption (loved the ending). I could very much relate being from the rural south (NC) in the sixties. Diane offers an insight as to the difficult choices and a close-up of how minors with little or no control over certain circumstances--with the feeling of no way out of their environment in order to change the vicious cycle---- Combine this with others having the power to make choices for them without thinking of their future or their best interests. (It was amazing how much control social workers had over situations during this era.) Hats off to the tenacious professionals who “cross the lines” and take a chance for the welfare of their clients and their futures. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. A Must Read! I look forward to the e-book The First Lie as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The strength of the human spirit definitely rules this storyline. This is another good one to have young ones read not only for the history of it but for the realization of what is important in life and what isn't. This is a beautifully written and memorable book to recommend and maybe even reread.
DiiMI More than 1 year ago
Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Jane, a newly married social worker, who “wants to make a difference,” and Ivy, part of a poverty-stricken family whose remaining members each carry the result of tainted secrets in the family closet, are thrown together by circumstance and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong? Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is a gut-wrenching tale of poverty, bureaucracy and the will to survive against the odds while doing the right thing at any cost. From page one, I was thrown into an unbelievable page out of history, wondering how ANYONE or any government could impose such mandates on another. Told from alternating points of view, I felt and saw both sides of life, from the day to day struggles to the mental turmoil and desperation felt by Ivy and Jane living in an era and place so different from anything I have ever known. Diane Chamberlain writes with a flair for keeping this real and raw, yet not so over-powering that the reader feels they are reading horror fiction. Her style is eye-opening and will keep you turning each page, hoping for a happy ending for the well-drawn characters. Expect this one to stay with you for a long time. I strongly suggest you read The First Lie, a short story prequel to Necessary Lies. You’ll be glad you did. I was provided an ARC edition from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was drawn into this novel immediately and couldn't put it down. It kept me enthralled. I have now purchased another of Diane Chamberlain's Nook books as I found her style of writing to be capturing and inspirational. It was an eye opening reality of the situations and conditions that impoverished people had to endure and how they were manipulated, devastated and disregarded as human beings and how one person can make a difference just by caring. Great Job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some books are unforgettable and "Necessary Lies" is one of those. The characters, plots, interwoven story is sad and beautiful. I have read most of Diane Chamberlain's books and this is one of her very best. It is the kind of book I want to tell all my friends who read that this is a must read. It is so good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, hard to put down, but a tough read all the same
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the first sentence you are entanced
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first story I've read by this author, and it was fantastic! Very easy to get lost in this story, very likeable characters. It hooked me very quickly, and the ending was a satisfying one with all/most questions answered. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was filled with suspense, drama, love, and history. I easily related to the main character since I too face similar difficult choices in my career. The historical component is intriguing and crontroversial. It raises many questions with uneasy answers. Necessary Lies could not be a better title for this story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author delves into interesting topics. If you enjoy Jodi Piccoult, you will like Diane Chamberlain as well. Good read.
jdogjojo04061956 More than 1 year ago
dangitgirl More than 1 year ago
Loved this book!!! Set in 1960s NC with a new social worker thrown into the field in the midst of eugenics sterilization program.  the focus is on several families still living on a tenant farm. the characters are real and your heart bleeds for them and for the social worker who struggles with morality and the system's abuse and unnecessary imposition of sterilization.  also the social impact of her job on her marriage at a time when it was looked down upon for white women to work.
JosieUtah More than 1 year ago
I had no knowledge of the practices of the injustices done to the poor, illiterate, and blacks in this nation during the 50's and 60's. This book was a real eye opener for me.
louieML More than 1 year ago
I am not finished reading this book, but look forward every night to read a couple of chapters. It's one of this books that's hard to stop reading. The characters are easy to get to know and understand. It's a story of prejudices and tender hearts. If you want warmth and love, this is the book for you.
Literary_Marie More than 1 year ago
Picture a small southern town fifty years ago. Fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is a tenant on a tobacco farm. Unlike other young girls her age, she is the head of household. Ivy cares for her grandmother, older sister and baby nephew. With her grandmother's aging, her older sister's mental illness, her baby nephew's slow development skills and her own epilepsy, Ivy struggles to hold it together. Jane is a newlywed who wishes to be independent and work. To her husband's dismay, she takes on a position as Grace County's newest social worker. Turns out Jane is too nice for social work. Before you know it, Jane becomes emotionally attached to the Hart family and at a crossroads whether to take a step back or risk her career to help clients. The characters in Necessary Lies are fictional but the Eugenics Sterilization Program is very real. According to the Author's Note, North Carolina sterilized over 7,000 of its citizens. North Carolina is the only state that gave social workers the power to petition for sterilization of individuals. If it weren't for Diane Chamberlain, this program would be unknown to me. Color me thankful to the author for bringing awareness, then color me appalled that so many individuals were affected by this program from 1929 until 1975. Diane Chamberlain is an international bestselling author. I have read three of her twenty-two novels (The Good Father, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and The Midwife's Confession). All of the books I've read are highly recommended. The stories are deep, detailed and touch your heart. After reading the prequel The First Lie, I was anxious to see the story unfold and was satisfied with the full-circle ending of Necessary Lies. I will not hesitate to read a Diane Chamberlain novel and hope to catch up on her earlier released novels. I suggest my bookhearts do the same. Literary Marie of Precision Reviews
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was ok.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, such a great story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I almost passed on buying this but am very glad I didn't. Characters were well developed and relate able.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully written book that brought awareness and perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I have read by this author. And I loved it. It was a bitter sweet story. My heart went out to those girls and baby William. It will be a few days before I can start another book. This one will be on my mind for a bit. R.G
Tl44 More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Diane Chamberlain always manages to craft excellent stories that keep the reader engrossed til the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not only was this novel beautifully and realistically written, it educated me about a horrifying sterilization program in North Carolina from 1924-1974. This book, however, is set in the early 50's. I couldn't put it down...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just an ok book for me; too predictable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!