Cover image for Big lies in a small town : a novel
Title:
Big lies in a small town : a novel
ISBN:
9781250087331
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
391 pages ; 25 cm.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold-until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets. North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder. What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? --
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Summary

Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel in Big Lies in a Small Town .

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold--until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, sheaccepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

"Chamberlain's depictions of creative beauty and perseverance across time and in the face of inevitable obstacles will keep readers turning the pages."-- Publishers Weekly

"Chamberlain's writing is reminiscent of a quilt made up of pieces from different people, places, and times, stitched together into a single, emotional story."-- Booklist


Author Notes

Diane Chamberlain is an American author of adult fiction. Prior to her writing career, she was a psychotherapist in private practice in Virginia, working primarily with adolescents. Among her works are: Secrets She Left Behind, The Lost Daughter, Before the Storm, The Bay at Midnight, The Lies We Told, The Midwife's Confession, and Necessary Lies.

Diane's novel, The Secret Sister, became a New York Times bestseller in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

This rich novel from Chamberlain (The Silent Sister) tracks artists whose lives intertwine after a mural is commissioned for a small town. In 1939, 22-year-old New Jersey artist Anna Dale is in Edenton, N.C., having won a federal art contest and being chosen to paint a mural for Edenton's post office. The completed piece, however, is mysteriously never installed. In 2018, another 22-year-old artist, Morgan Christopher, is connected to the mural. Morgan has served a year in a North Carolina prison for a felony DUI, but she's released by a powerful private lawyer in order to restore Anna's damaged mural, which has been in storage. An artist and philanthropist, Jesse Jameson Williams, has died, and in his will, his adult daughter, Lisa, is instructed to ensure that Morgan restore the painting. Morgan doesn't understand how Williams knew of her, though she had admired his work for years. Single father Oliver Jones, another recipient of Williams's generosity and curator of Williams's gallery, uses his training in restoration to help Morgan. She's grateful for his help, and an attraction develops between them. Anna and Morgan's passion for their craft serves as an enticing connection as they work on the same project decades apart. Chamberlain's depictions of creative beauty and perseverance across time and in the face of inevitable obstacles will keep readers turning the pages. Agent: Susan Ginsberg, Writers House. (Jan.)


Kirkus Review

A tale of two artists, living 78 years apart in a small Southern town, and the third artist who links them.The fates of two white painters in Edenton, North Carolina, intertwine with the legacy of a third, that of Jesse Jameson Williams, a prominent African American artist with Edenton roots. In 2018, the recently deceased Jesse has left a very unusual will. In life, Jesse paid his success forward by helping underdog artists. Morgan Christopher, the last, posthumous recipient of Jesse's largesse, can't imagine why he chose her, a complete stranger who is doing time for an alcohol-related crash that left another driver paralyzed. Released on an early parole engineered by Jesse's daughter, Lisa, Morgan will receive $50,000 to restore a mural painted by one Anna Dale in 1940 in time for a gallery opening on Aug. 5, 2018. If Morgan misses this deadline, not only is her deal off, but Lisa will, due to a puzzling, thinly motivated condition of Jesse's will, lose her childhood home. In an alternating narrative, Anna, winner of a U.S. Treasury Department competition, has been sent from her native New Jersey to paint a mural for the Edenton post office. Anna has zero familiarity with the South, particularly with Jim Crow. She recognizes Jesse's exceptional talent and mentors him, to the ire of Edenton's white establishment. Martin Drapple, a local portraitist rejected in the competition, is at first a good sport, when he's sober, until, somewhat too suddenly, he's neither. Issues of addiction and mental illness are foremost in both past and present. Anna's late mother had manic episodes. Morgan's estranged parents are unrepentant boozers. And Anna's mural of civic pride is decidedly strange. One of the strengths here is the creditable depiction of the painter's process, in Anna's case, and the restorer's art, in Morgan's. Despite the fraught circumstances challenging all three painters, conflict is lacking. The 1940 racial tensions are unrealistically mild, and Jesse's testamentary testiness is not mined for its full stakes-raising potential.An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Chamberlain (The Dream Daughter, 2018) again weaves together the frayed threads of a story that reaches across time. In prison for a crime she didn't commit, Morgan Christopher is shocked to learn that she will be released if she agrees to restore a painting for a museum opening. Though her love of art never extended to restoration, she accepts the offer and is soon on her way to Edenton, North Carolina, to put life back into a mural created in the 1940s by Anna Dale. Morgan's narrative is interspersed with Anna's, the young artist who came to Edenton 60 years earlier to paint a mural for the post office and then disappeared with the mural in which she'd poured literal blood, sweat, and tears. When Morgan begins uncovering clues to Anna's secrets in the recovered mural, she discovers that a lot more than the painting links Edenton's past with its present. Chamberlain's writing is reminiscent of a quilt made up of pieces from different people, places, and times, stitched together into a single, emotional story.--Tracy Babiasz Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Chamberlain's (The Silent Sister) latest novel follows 22-year-old Morgan Christopher, an art student serving time for a bad choice that left another woman paralyzed. When a lawyer offers her an early release, she knows she can't say no despite the contingency: to restore a 70-year-old mural that is shrouded in mystery in the small town of Edenton, NC. If she completes the task, she earns not only her freedom but also a $50,000 payment from the estate of the late Jesse Jameson Williams, an artist with a penchant for rescuing troubled youth. The artist behind the mural, Anna Dale, disappeared in 1940 and was presumed dead by suicide. While Morgan was an art student before her incarceration, she has zero restoration experience and must learn every step of the way while simultaneously unraveling the dark secrets of the small town. VERDICT Chamberlain's story is a little slow at the start but picks up and becomes a quick and engaging read. Vaguely reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, this is a good fit for mystery lovers, and the crossover among art, history, and mental health is multifaceted and intriguing. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]--Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib.