Nancy Johnson’s debut novel, The Kindest Lie (out Feb. 2), is a remarkable, thought-provoking, and brilliantly written book that delves into race relations, family ties, unconditional love, and what it means to be Black in America. The story begins in the midst of the 2008 presidential election after Obama has been named the President-elect, and “with a brother on his way to the White House” people are buzzing with hope and joy. Ruth and her husband Xavier have it all, living in a Chicago suburb far away from the poor auto-factory town in Indiana where Ruth grew up. After going to Yale and becoming a chemical engineer, she has grown out of her past and done everything in her power to leave it behind. That is, until her husband wants to start a family. Xavier soon finds out that Ruth is running from more than just her past . . . she’s also running from a boy she gave birth to when she was 17 years old.
On a hunt to find her son, fix strained relationships with her family, and discover the truth about what it means to be a mother, Ruth goes back to her hometown to make peace with her past. Along the way, she meets a poor white boy named Midnight who’s in need of love and acceptance, and who is also blind to the impact race plays on his life. Their newfound friendship leads her closer to her son while also opening her eyes to the racial injustices and class inequalities the small town is facing.
The Kindest Lie takes a looking glass into just how far you can run from your past, how lies can be used to help and hurt those they affect, and what a mother will do for her child. Peering into poverty, injustice, family ties, and wholehearted love, Johnson’s book will open your eyes to what it means to live the American Dream.
“A lifetime of lies never added up to anything good. A lifetime of doing the wrong things for the right reasons. A lifetime of lies that started small, like a nick in the windshield, then eventually shattered the glass.”
Be ready to dive into the social injustices that plague American towns through one woman’s journey to reconnect with her past.
Where You Should Read It
Set yourself up by the fireplace or near an open window, so you can enjoy reading this book in a peaceful spot without any (or at least minimal) interruptions. You’ll want space to take in this thoughtful read.
Read This If You Like . . .
Similar to The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Kindest Lie is an engrossing story about race, class, and coming to grips with your past. Touching on love, family, and what it means to be American, these two books take the audience on a heartfelt and moving journey that’ll stick with them long after it’s over.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Prompt(s)
This novel can check off more than one 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt; just pick the one that fits best for you.
- A book that’s published in 2021
- A book about do overs or fresh starts
- A book about a social justice issue
How Long It Takes to Read
Since this book is really good, it won’t take you longer than a week to get through it (or just one weekend, if you’re a binge reader!). It’s 336 pages, but thanks to the rich story and compelling writing style, you’ll breeze through it in no time.
Give This Book to . . .
If you’re part of a book club, add Johnson’s novel to the queue ASAP. With a complex plot, easy-to-love characters, and important social justice issues at the heart of it, there are many great opportunities for discussions that can center around everything from race and class in America to relationships with parents and siblings.
The Sweet Spot Summary
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson ($25) will not only pull at your heartstrings, but it will also make you want to call your family, fight racial injustice, and hold on tighter to those you love. With every page you turn, you’ll see just how powerful unconditional love really is.
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