Review Blog

Jan 17 2020

Big lies in a small town by Diane Chamberlain

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St Martin's Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781509808625.
(Age: Adult - Mature YA) Recommended for adult readers. The young woman, Morgan Christopher is unexpectedly rescued from jail through a bequest and request from a benefactor known for his incredible artistic talents. Morgan's own incomplete art skills are needed as she is thrust into the task of restoring a mural created in 1940. This restoration project comes with time pressures and emotional pressures from the artist's daughter as she unearths the history of the original artist, Anna Dale. Anna was the winner of a National Town Mural competition to paint the mural for the town of Edenton. As an outsider, she ruffles a few locals and her Northerner ways and opinions are sometimes at odds with the local North Carolina residents. The social milieu of the 1940's town reveals the inter-racial conflicts of Southern USA in the 1940s as well as the joys and challenges of the small town. What should she include in her artistic representation of the town? When the contemporary parolee, Morgan, investigates the history of the mural that was never displayed, she uncovers a history that has many twists - and some of them are not pleasant. In her own story she must unravel her own insecurities related to the event that caused her imprisonment, and needs to decide whether she is worthy of love and the incredible honour of becoming an art restorer for the late renowned artist.
This is an impressive adult dramatic saga incorporating the two separate stories of the original artist - Anna Dale, and the contemporary restorer - Morgan Christopher. Told with time shifts back and forth between the two stories, there is a slowly unfolding revelation of the drama that led to the mural's disappearance. The process of art restoration is overseen by the interesting gallery administrator and there are stories of family disharmony and restoration woven through the saga. Diane Chamberlain is a master of the romantic and historical narrative, and this is the kind of book that would be enjoyed as a 'holiday' selection because of the revelation of the mystery and social drama across the generations within the 385 page narrative. Although this is an adult story, it could be read by mature YA readers.
Recommended for adult readers. Themes: Historical drama; Art restoration; Racial discrimination - USA; Romance; Murder mystery; Sexual Assault
Carolyn Hull

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