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Nancy Johnson Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Kindest Lie (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Nancy Johnson
Nancy Johnson is a contemporary fiction author best known for her debut novel The Kindest Lie. This engaging read explores class, identity, race, and the never-ending pursuit of the American dream. Johnson was born on the Southside of Chicago. She went to Northwestern University for her degree and later to The University of North Carolina. After school, the talented author worked for over a decade as a TV journalist for CBS and ABC affiliates across the world. Currently, Johnson lives in Chapel Hill, where she enjoys writing and managing brand communications for a non-profit.

The Kindest Lie
The Kindest Lie introduces Ruth Tuttle, a black engineer happily married to an equally successful man. Ruth’s husband Xavier is keen to start a family, but Ruth is not as eager. She has not forgotten the son she gave birth to, only to be forced to give him up for adoption. Ruth has kept this information secret, and there is always the fear that the truth could ruin her marriage. In the midst of all this uncertainty, Ruth makes a trip to her hometown in Indiana in an effort to make peace with the past. The factory town she once called home is nothing like she left it. Now, unemployment is the order of the day, and the racism and despair throughout the town are hard to miss.

Ruth’s family is not happy about her quest to deal with her unresolved feelings. She had sworn to her grandmother and her brother Eli that she would never look back once she gave her baby up for adoption. Now it is clear that this woman, now a successful engineer, will not let the past remain in the past. As Ruth starts digging her past, she meets an eleven-year-old boy nicknamed Midnight, and the two become fast friends. Midnight is looking for a connection, and he finds a confidant in Ruth. Just when Ruth is about to unravel a secret her family wants to keep hidden, some traumatic incident happens. The incident strains the already simmering racial tensions in her small hometown, and Ruth and Midnight find themselves in a dangerous situation. Can these two unlikely friends dig themselves out of trouble?

This is a powerful story that reveals the heartbreaking divide between white and black communities. Once the tensions in Indiana escalate, it is easy to see how they affect these two communities. The story also shows a persistent view of motherhood in Modern America. As a mother works to achieve the American Dream, she makes a lot of sacrifices, some of which come to haunt her in the future. Ruth had to let her son go if she wanted to succeed later in life. As a teenage girl in a poverty-stricken town, it is no secret that her life would have taken a different turn had she not made that hard choice. Her grandmother and brother also had to make sacrifices of their own to see Ruth succeed.

This story is set in Chicago, 2008, right after Obama was declared the winner of the presidential election but before he takes office. Many people are hopeful that the new president would bring much-needed change. Ruth celebrates Obama’s win in Chicago, but the situation at home reveals just how much the people there were suffering. Businesses are shutting down, many people are struggling to afford basic amenities, and the racial tensions are getting worse by the day. For the people in this industrial town in the Midwest, not even a new president can raise their hope. Things have deteriorated over the years, and the pain many have been hiding for years is slowly coming to the surface.

While Ruth, just like her politically ambitious husband, remains hopeful, she has concerns that date back to her youth. Ruth and her brother Eli were raised by their grandparents. Their drug-addicted mother abandoned them, and her grandma was forced to step up and play mom to these young children. In an effort to make the future easier for Ruth, her grandmother gives her an ethnically ambiguous name. She is heartbroken when Ruth gets pregnant so young, but she urges her to keep her dreams alive. That is how the family decides that giving the baby for adoption is the best move for Ruth.

This is a layered story with many subplots and an intriguing storyline. It explores family, race, class, and community. Through this book, we see how one decision affects many people, sometimes many years later. While this captivating novel comes with many themes, the writing is done so well the story flows seamlessly. This is one of those stories that stay in your mind long after you are done reading. There is a lot to think about, and the fact that it stays interesting to the last page means that you will keep reading anxiously to see what happens next.

The characters in this book are all flawed, realistic, and likable. They also hold a few secrets in an effort to protect each other. For example, Ruth adores her husband and wants to start a family with him. However, she is still keeping her teenage pregnancy secret even though this keeps haunting her. Ruth’s grandma is also keeping secrets of her own, and she is afraid that her granddaughter would be heartbroken if she uncovered them.

The Kindest Lie is a captivating story that is sure to generate loads of discussions, making it ideal for book clubs. The story will have you completely absorbed, and it is hard not to get emotionally invested in the characters’ lives. You will experience fear, pain, and uncertainty the deeper you get into this story as you witness the poverty, stereotypes, and inequality the characters are forced to endure. Despite all the suffering, it is refreshing that these characters are strong, compassionate, and still find a reason to laugh and have a good time. Some of the sacrifices they make will move you to tears, and the sad bit is that this is the reality for some people. It is also admirable how expertly the author handles societal issues throughout the story.

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