Diane Chamberlain’s Big Lies in a Small Town should be on every one’s to be read list for two reasons. First and foremost it is a beautiful story. Actually, two stories in one. Big Lies in a Small Town reverts between a story line in 1940 and one in 2018. Both feature young women struggling with the reality of making their way in the world.
Secondly, the story will remind all of us angered and frustrated by the events unfolding in the United States that progress has been made in society. Injustice still occurs. But progress with respect to racism and race relations has been made. We just need to keep moving forward.
The protagonist for the 1940s half of the story is Anna Dale. She is an artist of 22 and has just won the task of designing and painting a 12 foot by 6 foot mural. Instead of working in her home state of New Jersey, she is commissioned to create the work for the Edenton, North Carolina post office.
Anna faces many obstacles in Edenton. Mostly from the white male movers and shakers of the small town. But she also inspires two youths. Both are high school students. One is white and the other black. The two are loyal to Anna and to each other.
The story follows the efforts of Anna as she works to complete this major commission. But then an incident occurs and she becomes unhinged. This is reflected in the mural.
In the contemporary plot of Big Lies in a Small Town, Morgan Christopher is the center character. Unlike Anna who had close ties to her mother, Morgan is all alone after a tragic accident alters her life. A good part of the novel is Morgan accepting her past while working as a restorer on a huge and badly damaged Anna Dale mural. The challenging restoration serves as a catharsis.
Timeliness of Big Lies in a Small Town
Chamberlain’s writing is moving and uplifting. Yes, there is ugliness in both stories. Cruelty and injustice leave marks on both women. However, the two move on with their lives. The message is one of looking forward.
I read Big Lies in a Small Town on Libby. Somehow the book came available to me weeks ahead of schedule. Definitely a higher being at work. The riots occurring across the country will affect people in different ways. Personally, I saw hopelessness. Now I again have hope.
Diane Chamberlain reminded me of the progress that has been made. The world is not perfect. Utopia cannot exist. But, each generation can improve on the last. Each person has the ability to hold themselves accountable. This message rings loudly through Chamberlain’s writing. Yet the loudest missive of all from Big Lies in a Small Town is the capacity of individuals to tear down racial divide. Peacefully.