The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
Rating - 8/10
I was extremely lucky enough to be chosen for a book club on Instagram - @mystery.book.club
This is my first ever book club that I am now a part of and I was so happy to participate in it! For their February pick, they chose The Kindest Lie, and I’m not gonna lie when I say that I was so excited for this pick! I knew I wanted to read this book because firstly, it was ALL over Instagram and the all the book review sites too, also I’ve heard great things about this book! Seeing that it’s also Black History Month, I love that they chose a black author for this month’s book. Massive thanks to William Morrow Books as well for sending me this bright and fabulous print of this book. On to the plot!
The setting is Chicago, IL and a small fictional town named Ganton in Indiana.
We follow Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy League, educated black engineer who is married to a successful and kind man. It is 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. Ruth’s husband is eager to start a new family, but Ruth isn’t at all ready for it. When Ruth was a teenager, she became pregnant, had a baby and she had to leave that baby behind in order to pursue her education and to keep her promise to her family to never look back. Ruth knows that to look forward, she must make peace with the past.
Soon after, Ruth returns to her hometown in Indiana. She discovers that the Indiana factory of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. She soon begins to dig into her past, and along the way, she befriends a white boy named Midnight who is lost and looking for connection. Just when Ruth comes close to uncovering a burning secret that her family wishes to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both of their lives.
The Kindest Lie captures the tragic racial divide between black and white communities, and offers an unflinching view into motherhood in a contemporary American setting and the never ending quest for the American Dream.
I love books that are heavily character driven and this book was definitely one of those books. Books like these tend to stick to your memory long after you’ve read them which is always a good sign of some great writing. There aren’t many characters in this book which made you truly focus on the two main characters in this book. Ruth and Midnight. The story is told from their perspectives which I absolutely loved!
Ruth was an interesting character, very driven, educated, she worked hard to get to where she is in life which a lot of successful women could relate to. I loved that the protagonist was a strong, black female with natural hair and dark skin. Then you have Midnight, who was sort of like this lost puppy. He’s a young white boy and is a bit lost in life. His friends say that he has an old soul, which maybe is why Ruth takes a liking to him. I loved Midnight, he was quite an interesting and very realistic character. You sort of felt for him during the whole book. Amazing character development in this read.
Nancy Johnson covered quite a plethora of subject matters in this book. Ruth goes back to her home town in Ganton, Indiana and uncovers quite a few secrets of which her family were not too keen to uncover. While she’s back home she really sees how much the town is divided in the community. You definitely have a split between white and black communities, as well as the intersectionality of race and class in her hometown. I loved all of these subject matters and how they all gently intertwined within the plot of the book and the characters as well.
It also deals with that search or strive for the 'American Dream'. Here you have Ruth’s husband, who is very successful, check. He has a perfect wife, check. He has a great apartment and a great life in a happening part of Chicago, check. The only thing that’s missing is the family aspect, or a baby I should say. Then this is where the storyline becomes complex due to Ruth’s past. The American Dream is never as easy as well hoped for it to be.
We also explore the complexities of motherhood in this book. How different it can be for some women, especially in Ruth’s case. She had a baby at a very young age, and basically left town to pursue for education. It was a heartbreaking story and you really feel for Ruth’s character.
The structure of the story itself was interesting. You learn very early on in the book what the spoiler was, and the whole book is about the journey to how things came to be the way they were for Ruth in this book. I liked that a lot. It was all about learning about Ruth’s decision and the impact it had on those around her. It was a slow burning read but in a really good way. You never quite knew what was going to happen which made you want to read more and more of it.
I loved the time setting of the book as well and it played really well with the storyline of the book. It was told at the time that President Barack Obama was elected, and that hopeful and quite riveting time where the black community was starting to feel hopeful, and created this unspoken divide in the country. Interesting time setting from Johnson.
The Kindest Lie is an exploration of race, class, the divide between black and white communities, unemployment, politics, the complexities of motherhood, difficult life decisions and the repercussions of those decisions. It had excellent writing and was an excellent soulful book. You definitely leave this book with an impression of either the memorable characters or the storyline. I feel like each person would walk away from this book feeling affected by a certain aspect of it. I also loved the title of this book. The Kindest Lie. It totally fits in with the story of the book. What are the kind lies that we tell each other or a family member that we care about. It’s all about those little lies that get us through. Kind lies. Genius title. An excellent debut from Johnson and I look forward to reading more from her. A perfect read for book clubs too. I loved it and I highly recommend it. Solid book.
The song pick was actually very easy for me for this book and also was pretty much provided in the story!! Also I LOVE this entire album and this track. I think it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. This song is mentioned early in the book, and I felt that it fit in with Ruth’s youth in the story. If it wasn’t for Ruth’s then boyfriend when she was young, well we wouldn’t have the story that we now have in this book right? I also love that Johnson has great taste in music! She mentions quite a few amazing musicians in this book. But in terms of the vibe of the story and book, my song pick had to be - ‘Killing Me Softly’ by the one and only, Lauryn Hill. Love this song.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Mystery
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
Pages: 336 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow Books