The Kindest Lie : A Novel by Nancy Johnson


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Set in small town Indiana amid economic distress and racial tensions, this story unravels the knot of lies woven between two families and exposes the underpinnings of their town and the whole of American society along with it. Ruth is the woman who got out. She graduated Yale, is an engineer, and is happily married to a successful man who joins her in rejoicing Obama’s victory. She also has a deep secret that both made all this possible and threatens to derail the life she’s built. When she returns back to her childhood home looking for answers to a question she hasn’t even dared to ask, she finds herself drawn to caring for a local white boy whose own losses have dealt him a life he cannot firmly grip. A story of people breaking other people and trying to rebuild with what they have left, this exploration of socioeconomic class, family, ego, and race is an incisive look at how people hold each other at arm’s length and reach for that connection at the same time.

– Miranda <3



For fans of Tayari Jones and Jacqueline Woodson, a thought-provoking, page-turning debut about race, class, identity, and the pursuit of the American dream.

“A gloriously written, stunning heart scorcher about who we are and what we could be.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World

A promise could betray you.

It’s 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and abandoned—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. While her family is happy to see her, they remind her of the painful sacrifices to give Ruth a shot at a better future—like the comfortable middle-class life she now enjoys.

Determined, Ruth begins digging into the past. As she uncovers burning secrets her family desperately wants to hide, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. When a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, Ruth and Midnight find themselves on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

The Kindest Lie examines the heartbreaking divide between black and white communities and plumbs the emotional depths of the struggles faced by ordinary Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. Capturing the profound racial injustices and class inequalities roiling society, Nancy Johnson’s debut novel offers an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

The Kindest Lie : A Novel by Nancy Johnson
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