Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date of publication: January 14th, 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction
North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.
North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.
What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?
The children knew it was finally spring, so although the air still held the nip of winter and the grass and weeds crunched beneath their feet, they ran through the fields and woods, yipping with the anticipation of warmer weather.Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
When I was approached to review Big Lies in a Small Town, I was a little hesitant to read it. I knew from reading the blurb that this was going to be a dual plotline book, which I am not a fan of. I also knew, from reading the book, that this was going to be an emotional read. I have to be in a certain mood to read a book that I knew was going to make me cry. I ended up accepting the review because I was curious. I wanted to know how the mural and Morgan were tied together.
Big Lies in a Small Town had two fast moving plotlines. I didn’t have an issue with following either plotline. What I liked, and what made the book enjoyable for me to read, was that the flow of the book wasn’t disturbed when going from 1940 and 2018. The author clearly marked those chapters with the names of Morgan or Anna at the beginning.
I had a hard time connecting with Morgan. Her attitude at the beginning wasn’t the best. But as the author got into her backstory, I understood why she acted that way. By the end of the book, I loved her. She was committed 100% to finding out what happened to Anna and to refinishing the mural. I liked that she was able to keep her head on straight during certain situations (the bar fight was one) and that she was able to admit that she had major issues. Her character grew so much during this book and it was wonderful to read.
I didn’t feel the same way about Anna. I liked Anna right from the beginning. She was determined to paint that mural the way she wanted it, not the way the influential men wanted it. I loved that she didn’t care if her friendship with Jesse was causing issues with the “good folk” in town. I also loved that she didn’t back down when Marvin Drapple’s wife and her friends were douchenozzles.
I do want to throw in a trigger warning. There is a somewhat graphic rape scene that ends with the death of the rapist. To be honest, it took me by surprise. I was not expecting it. I wasn’t expecting the aftermath either. What I was expecting was the blatant racism shown when it was in the 1940’s. It was the South. There were derogatory names used. There was the threat of violence (lynching was discussed). So, a warning.
There are a couple of twists in the plotline that took me by surprise. The first one involved Morgan and her release from jail. The other, well, it happened at the end of the book. I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. So, I was taken by surprise.
There was a romance angle to the book. I’m not sure if I like it or not. The only reason being what was happening in the other plotline. Both started about that time.
I learned more about art restoration than I ever wanted to know. I will admit, it was fascinating to read about how to do it. I never thought that much work went into restoring old paintings. But then again, until this book, I never had to think about that.
The end of Big Lies in a Small Town was bittersweet. The 2nd plot twist happened towards the very end of the book. Like I said above, I was taken by surprise. I shouldn’t have been. The very end of the book was a bit frustrating. Only because it ended and I wanted to see that meeting!!
I would give Big Lies in a Small Town an Adult rating. There is no sex (but an explicit rape scene). There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.
I would reread Big Lies in a Small Town. I would recommend it to family and friends.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**