Big Lies in a Small Town
by Diane Chamberlain
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?
Dream Daughter was my first read by Diane Chamberlain. I was completely hooked on that book and couldn’t put it down. Once Big Lies in a Small Town came out, I had to give it a try, and I’m elated because I was totally engrossed in this story. It consumed my weekend. What a page-turner!
This story is told from two different points of view alternating between 1940 and 2018. We have Morgan, a young girl who’s been serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. Surprisingly, she catches a break after serving only part of her time. A woman named Lisa Williams has asked Morgan to restore a mural which will be part of her father’s art gallery. Lisa’s father was a famous artist and has chosen Morgan for this special job. She’s given the chance to leave jail now if she can restore it by a specific date. The issue: Morgan has zero experience doing restoration. The offer is too good to pass up though. Once she begins the project, it sends her on a journey of discovering who the original artist was, and what happened to her.
I could barely believe my ears. I’d not only get out of prison but I’d live in Jesse Jameson William’s house? I felt the unexpected threat of tears. Oh God, how I needed to get out of here!
Now we switch to Anna Dale in 1940, a young girl who entered an art contest and won. The reward: painting a mural that will hang in the post office of Edenton, North Carolina. She’s so excited, but not everyone in the town shares her enthusiasm. Anna is forced to deal with jealousy, control, and racism. Will she be strong enough to overcome the hate?
“Never be afraid to try something new, Anna,” her mother would say. That’s what Anna was doing now, wasn’t it? Driving for two whole days through unfamiliar territory, landing in a tiny town where she didn’t know a soul. From somewhere in the heavens, her mother was applauding.
Diane Chamberlain is one amazing storyteller. This story is compelling and even thought-provoking at times. The constant flipping back and forth between 1940 and 2018 made me nervous at first, but it was seamless and so easy to read as the story continued. These women have interesting stories and I was equally invested in both of them. Morgan is kind, cautious, and just wants to do what’s right. Anna is very much the same, and she’s strong—consistently standing her ground. All the characters were great. The ending was unexpected too.
- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (January 14, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250087333
- ISBN-13: 978-1250087331
Thanks for reading my review! Do you have any other books by Diane Chamberlain you can recommend? Please share below!