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The Kindest Lie

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A promise could betray you. It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President 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 was forced to leave behind—when she was a tee A promise could betray you. It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President 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 was forced to leave behind—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. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives. Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.  


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A promise could betray you. It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President 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 was forced to leave behind—when she was a tee A promise could betray you. It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President 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 was forced to leave behind—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. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives. Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.  

30 review for The Kindest Lie

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    I was impressed this debut novel managed to cover so many topics including race, social class, and motherhood to name a few. What is unique about this story is each reader might walk away with a different aspect that made the most impact. This is a book I found myself thinking about days after I finished reading it. I love when a story makes a deep impression on you. In 2008, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy League educated Black engineer is living in Chicago with her husband. He wants to start a family but R I was impressed this debut novel managed to cover so many topics including race, social class, and motherhood to name a few. What is unique about this story is each reader might walk away with a different aspect that made the most impact. This is a book I found myself thinking about days after I finished reading it. I love when a story makes a deep impression on you. In 2008, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy League educated Black engineer is living in Chicago with her husband. He wants to start a family but Ruth knows she is going to have to drop a bombshell on him first. She had never told him when she was a teenager she gave birth and the baby was put up for adoption. Ruth went on to escape her poverty-stricken town, attend college, and start a career. But now she wants to revisit her past and in the process she might uncover a family secret or two. Along the way she will meet a young white boy with the nickname, Midnight. The story is set during the time period in which Obama has just won the presidential election but has not yet taken office. So you have this interesting backdrop of so many people hopeful of change mixed in with Ruth visiting her hometown in Indiana which has businesses shutting down left and right and people struggling to get by. I've lived in the Midwest for most of my life and it was easy to get a vivid picture in my mind even though it is a fictional town. Just another thing that added richness to the story. I will say I had a bit of lightbulb moment when I finally pieced two things together regarding the plot. I don't want to reveal too much in my review but I think it's important to mention it's a very layered story and for that reason it's worthy of a book club selection as there are so many things to discuss. Highly recommend and I hope the author is hard at work on another novel. Would love to see where her writing talent takes her next! I won a free advance copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway but was not obligated to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brandice

    In The Kindest Lie it’s 2008 and Obama has just been elected President, sending a wave of hope across the country. Ruth Tuttle is a happily married Black engineer living in Chicago. Her husband Xavier is eager to start a family but Ruth can’t shake deep feelings about the son she left behind when she was just 17. Only Ruth’s grandmother, Mama, and brother, Eli, knew about her son, who was given up for adoption. Ruth heads to her hometown in Indiana to address her unresolved feelings and find ans In The Kindest Lie it’s 2008 and Obama has just been elected President, sending a wave of hope across the country. Ruth Tuttle is a happily married Black engineer living in Chicago. Her husband Xavier is eager to start a family but Ruth can’t shake deep feelings about the son she left behind when she was just 17. Only Ruth’s grandmother, Mama, and brother, Eli, knew about her son, who was given up for adoption. Ruth heads to her hometown in Indiana to address her unresolved feelings and find answers to burning questions she’s tried to stifle for years. There, she observes a rundown state with poverty and racism on the rise. Ruth gets little help in her quest from Mama and Eli, who believe the past should stay in the past, and remind Ruth of the sacrifices they made for her. She meets Midnight, a young white boy who is seeking any form of connection, and eventually the 2 of them find themselves in a dangerous situation. The Kindest Lie is an excellent debut novel, exploring race, family, class, community, and the repercussions of one decision, affecting numerous people. While there are many themes here, Nancy Johnson writes about them well, in a way that doesn’t feel like overload. I appreciate how the characters were all realistic — none of them perfect, many with secrets, yet for the most part, still likable. The story is interesting and provides a lot to think about. Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Ruth and Xavier, married and living in Chicago, an upward mobile black couple, thrilled that Obama has won the Presidency. It's 2008 and they have every reason to feel hopeful. Their future looks bright until Xavier starts pushing to have a family. There is something Ruth has never told him, something in her past that threatens the stability of her psyche and their marriage. A debut novel that confronts racial barriers, injustice, class and wealth disparity. When Ruth returns home to Indiana, hop Ruth and Xavier, married and living in Chicago, an upward mobile black couple, thrilled that Obama has won the Presidency. It's 2008 and they have every reason to feel hopeful. Their future looks bright until Xavier starts pushing to have a family. There is something Ruth has never told him, something in her past that threatens the stability of her psyche and their marriage. A debut novel that confronts racial barriers, injustice, class and wealth disparity. When Ruth returns home to Indiana, hoping to find answers, she leaves her future unsettled. It will be confronting truths and leaning on family ties that may salvage what she has possibly lost. A good start to black history month as it highlights the disparities between races, how they are seen, prejudged, enveloped in a well developed personal story. It was quite good and I look forward to more from this talented, young author. ARC from library thing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Women's Fiction/Literary Fiction. We follow Ruth and a teenager that goes by Midnight. There is some flash backs during Ruth's parts, but I would not call this book Historical Fiction. The middle of this book was slow moving, but I have to say once everything was revealed I understood why the middle was moving a little slow. This book is a build up to what happens at the end. I think this book will make you look at how our current Cultural treats black people. I am glad I picked up thi This is a Women's Fiction/Literary Fiction. We follow Ruth and a teenager that goes by Midnight. There is some flash backs during Ruth's parts, but I would not call this book Historical Fiction. The middle of this book was slow moving, but I have to say once everything was revealed I understood why the middle was moving a little slow. This book is a build up to what happens at the end. I think this book will make you look at how our current Cultural treats black people. I am glad I picked up this book, and I hope one day that books like this is not needed. I am really glad I picked this book for my February book of the Month book. (*) This was my choice for my book of the month in February 2021. https://www.mybotm.com/zr12wnytgc8?sh...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ron Block

    This debut novel begins on the eve of the 2008 election at a watch party hosted by Ruth and Xavier, beaming with possibility and change for the future. We soon learn that Ruth has been keeping a secret from her husband. As a teenager she had a child and walked away to begin a new life at Yale. Ruth soon must return to her roots and hometown to find out what happened and reconnect with her family and friends. There she makes an unlikely friendship with an 11 year old white boy named Midnight, wit This debut novel begins on the eve of the 2008 election at a watch party hosted by Ruth and Xavier, beaming with possibility and change for the future. We soon learn that Ruth has been keeping a secret from her husband. As a teenager she had a child and walked away to begin a new life at Yale. Ruth soon must return to her roots and hometown to find out what happened and reconnect with her family and friends. There she makes an unlikely friendship with an 11 year old white boy named Midnight, with a troubling past of his own. This story is brilliantly told and explores connections of race, money, pride and finding your way back home. Nancy Johnson is a new voice to be celebrated. She brilliantly conveys the challenges of growing up black, of having hope for a better future and the realities that are still pervasive today in our country. This is an important work that should be read, talked about and shared. Out 2/2021

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    So intense, so emotional and thought provoking reading! I still dry my tears! Especially at the end get read to spill your ugly tears! They will hardly stop! The events of the book takes place in 2008: the year of the first election of Obama welcoming the changing winds of political spectrum, bringing out more hope and promising world. Then we’re introduced to Ruth and Xavier moved their house at South Chicago, happily married, achieved most of their life goals including successful careers and So intense, so emotional and thought provoking reading! I still dry my tears! Especially at the end get read to spill your ugly tears! They will hardly stop! The events of the book takes place in 2008: the year of the first election of Obama welcoming the changing winds of political spectrum, bringing out more hope and promising world. Then we’re introduced to Ruth and Xavier moved their house at South Chicago, happily married, achieved most of their life goals including successful careers and now it’s time to become a family. Xavier wants a baby but Ruth always has second thoughts about her achievements, feeling the absence of something deep in her life. Finally she comes clean to her husband and tells him how she gave her baby she had in young age and for moving forward in her life she has to learn how to make peace with her past by facing her wrongdoings and big mistakes which forces her to return back to her hometown Indiana to meet with her last living family members who still spend their lives in there. As soon as she gets back, she sees how the people of the town got affected financially by the closing of plant, losing their livelihoods. And then she meets her grandmother and brother, finding out how they sacrifice themselves for giving her a chance to live a better life. And her path crosses with white young boy suffers from his own deep issues named Midnight. Their brokenness and learning how to be outcast in young age help them form a special bond. Personally I loved Midnight and he was incredibly layered and complex character such as Ruth. It was heart wrenching to read both of their POVs and it’s impossible to hold your sobs and soothe down your boiling anger to see the examples of racism, inequality between classes which is realistically told and affects you like sharp slaps against your face! It’s striking, intense, frustrating! And at the end, an incident shakes you to the core, makes you question your beliefs, your perspective once again! I was thinking about giving four stars but last third blew my mind away. The intensity the truthfulness, the power of writing and amazing characters earned more than that! This is fascinating debut deserves 4.5 stars rounding up to 5 heartbreaking, teenage motherhood, racism, poverty, resentments stars! This book is not about social awareness and sensitive issues, it’s also about how hurtful and painful to keep secrets, how important being part of her family and raised in a community. It’s meaningful, sad, harsh and at last parts the words can bleed you but at the end you can heal your wounds with promising conclusion.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    This is such an impressive debut. It doesn't feel at all like it is the author's first book. I loved the themes the author explores here, and she does it in an amazing way. She twines together race and class and really makes the reader think about how those things are interrelated. The reader is left to ponder the true meaning of family and community and how secrets held can affect both. Ruth is a complex character, she has accomplished a great deal in her life, yet her past still haunts her. I d This is such an impressive debut. It doesn't feel at all like it is the author's first book. I loved the themes the author explores here, and she does it in an amazing way. She twines together race and class and really makes the reader think about how those things are interrelated. The reader is left to ponder the true meaning of family and community and how secrets held can affect both. Ruth is a complex character, she has accomplished a great deal in her life, yet her past still haunts her. I didn't like the way she treated Xavier, but I grew to appreciate the depth of her dilemma and inability to truly connect with him until she dealt with her past. The relationship in the novel that really stood out was the one between Midnight and Ruth. Midnight's character is achingly portrayed, the reader gets a true sense of this young boy and his struggles. This book moves along at a fast pace, but still leaves room for thought. It would make an excellent book club choice. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Brilliant novel about race, class and motherhood. Must-read. I read this novel in record time because I got so absorbed in these characters and story that I couldn't put it down. The very timely exploration of class, motherhood and black-white divide in America make "The Kindest Lie" the kind of book I feel the need to read more of as a white woman. The way these themes are carried out definitely reminded me of "The Vanishing Half" and "The Mothers" by Brit Bennett and "Small Great Things" by Jod Brilliant novel about race, class and motherhood. Must-read. I read this novel in record time because I got so absorbed in these characters and story that I couldn't put it down. The very timely exploration of class, motherhood and black-white divide in America make "The Kindest Lie" the kind of book I feel the need to read more of as a white woman. The way these themes are carried out definitely reminded me of "The Vanishing Half" and "The Mothers" by Brit Bennett and "Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult (also about a Yale-educated Ruth!). The story written by Johnson is equally memorable while the writing is just as poignant as in these masterpieces. However, what sets this book apart is the emphasis on politics of race and class in America. The 2008 Presidential election and the unemployment + anger + despair in Ruth's hometown, an Indiana factory town, are at the forefront of the novel. On top of that, Ruth's identity (or the socially imposed identity) as a successful woman vs. a mother shows how private lives are never separate from politics. Her unlikely friendship with Midnight, a lonely white boy from that town who wishes for her to be his mother, emphasizes ways in which true connection transcends racial divides. I highly recommend this remarkable book to anyone. *Thank you to the Publisher for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4.5 great debut stars (.5 stars for bringing me to tears at the end) This powerful novel seems so very timely. Set just when Barack Obama is elected to his first presidential term, we meet Ruth and Xavier, a black married couple living in Chicago. They both have great jobs and Xavier is ready to start a family. Ruth has lots of qualms and has never been honest with her husband about the baby she had as a teen and gave up for adoption. Ruth finally acknowledges the truth to Xavier and knows that s 4.5 great debut stars (.5 stars for bringing me to tears at the end) This powerful novel seems so very timely. Set just when Barack Obama is elected to his first presidential term, we meet Ruth and Xavier, a black married couple living in Chicago. They both have great jobs and Xavier is ready to start a family. Ruth has lots of qualms and has never been honest with her husband about the baby she had as a teen and gave up for adoption. Ruth finally acknowledges the truth to Xavier and knows that she needs to return home to reconcile with her past before she can move forward. Her hometown in Indiana is struggling as the plant has shut down and there is still a lot of racial tension. Ruth finally confronts all the secrets around her teenage pregnancy and learns just how much her grandparents and brother did for her. Along the way we get to meet many of the memorable inhabitants of the town and I really grew to root for the families, and especially the child who calls himself Midnight and is trying to find his place. There are themes of secrecy, the strong presence of the church, family bonds, and strength of community. There is a tense incident at the end that had me on the edge of my seat. Near the end, the author brought me to tears and I realized just how much this book had gotten to me! I can’t wait to read what this author writes next! Thank you to NetGalley and Book Club Girls/William Morrow and Custom House for the complimentary copy of this one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    This is a beautiful novel that speaks to race and motherhood. Obviously, this is very timely and because it is so thoughtful and well written, it will certainly be an excellent choice for reading groups. The protagonist,, Ruth is so many things, wife, mother?, daughter, sister and academic star. The novel explores how these segments pull her apart and how the pieces can be resolved. I enjoyed this and found myself thinking about all of the relationships and who has the right to determine another This is a beautiful novel that speaks to race and motherhood. Obviously, this is very timely and because it is so thoughtful and well written, it will certainly be an excellent choice for reading groups. The protagonist,, Ruth is so many things, wife, mother?, daughter, sister and academic star. The novel explores how these segments pull her apart and how the pieces can be resolved. I enjoyed this and found myself thinking about all of the relationships and who has the right to determine another’s future. Are good intentions enough? I highly recommend this novel. Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    Gorgeously nuanced.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan Peterson

    Set against the backdrop of the Obama election of 2008 and the lingering effects of the recession, The Kindest Lie is an emotionally compelling story about family, motherhood, and race. Ruth is happily married, an engineer, and a Yale graduate. But she is haunted by the life she left behind, and the big lie that threatens her marriage. When she returns to her hometown, we are given an honest and intimate account of a place and its people, suffering from an economic downturn which exacerbates the Set against the backdrop of the Obama election of 2008 and the lingering effects of the recession, The Kindest Lie is an emotionally compelling story about family, motherhood, and race. Ruth is happily married, an engineer, and a Yale graduate. But she is haunted by the life she left behind, and the big lie that threatens her marriage. When she returns to her hometown, we are given an honest and intimate account of a place and its people, suffering from an economic downturn which exacerbates the racial divide that already exists. The characters in this novel have so many layers, shaped by years of discrimination, family history, and economic despair. Each of them are memorable, and will linger in my heart. This is such an important and relevant story, written with a deep level of understanding and sensitivity. There were scenes in this book that took my breath away, as I stepped into the shoes of these characters, feeling all that they did—their fear, their distrust, their love, and their hope.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maereads

    This book was brilliant and Ruth the heroine in this book was such a strong women and some places in the book my heart broke for her . This book depicts the reality of black parents in America and racism that they face and I loved the how the author handled all the aspects and I couldn’t put it down . Thanks to Edelweiss for sending me an early copy of this book🥰🥰

  14. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    This was a raw and emotionally beautiful book that deeply moved me in a way no other book has. Thankfully I've never been in this situation or even wanted kids myself but somehow I loved the book anyway. It's really good and makes you think This was a raw and emotionally beautiful book that deeply moved me in a way no other book has. Thankfully I've never been in this situation or even wanted kids myself but somehow I loved the book anyway. It's really good and makes you think

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    Well-written literary fiction that examines racism and class issues In 2008, the election of Barack Obama brings a new sense of optimism, especially to the Black community. In the south side of Chicago, Ruth Tuttle and her husband, Xavier, have a nice home and good jobs. Xavier is ready to start a family. But Ruth remains unsure. She cannot get past the baby she gave birth to at seventeen and then gave away. It's a secret she's kept all these years, even from Xavier. When Ruth finally admits what Well-written literary fiction that examines racism and class issues In 2008, the election of Barack Obama brings a new sense of optimism, especially to the Black community. In the south side of Chicago, Ruth Tuttle and her husband, Xavier, have a nice home and good jobs. Xavier is ready to start a family. But Ruth remains unsure. She cannot get past the baby she gave birth to at seventeen and then gave away. It's a secret she's kept all these years, even from Xavier. When Ruth finally admits what happened, she feels compelled to return home and find out what happened to her child. Her working-class Indiana hometown has seen better days. And her grandmother and brother are unwilling to tell the truth about what happened to her child, holding fast to the idea that they sacrificed so Ruth could have a better life. As Ruth begins investigating on her own, she meets Midnight, a young white teen who is struggling too. The two form an unlikely bond, but it soon may be tested in a town teeming with its own racism issues. "A lie could be kind to you if you wanted it to be, if you let it. With every year that passed, it became easier to put more distance between her old life and her new one." This is a beautifully written book that deftly examines the issues of racism and class in America. It sneaks up on you with its wonderfully done story, filled with tenderness and longing. The characters are so excellent, with Midnight and Ruth (and the supporting cast) simply popping off the pages and becoming real as you read. The story is told from both Ruth and Midnight's points of view, giving a depth and insight to the plot, as we hear from both an educated and complex Black women and a scared white kid trying to survive. Johnson does a wonderful job of portraying the struggles of being Black in America: whether you're a college-educated woman such a Ruth, or whether you're her brother Eli, unemployed after the closure of the plant in their hometown, which has basically killed the hope and livelihood of many of the town's residents (both Black and white). The book covers race and class in a thoughtful way--often sad, often touching, and always well-done. This is an excellent book that puts you in the place of its characters. It is thoughtful and timely. 4.5 stars. I received a copy of this book from LibraryThing and William Morrow in return for an unbiased review. It is available on 2/2/2021. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christina Clancy

    I received this anticipated debut novel in a Goodreads giveaway and tore through it in a matter of days. I want to call it a page-turner, and it truly was--I was completely absorbed in the very human story and invested in the characters and the outcome. Yet the deeper you get into the novel, and the more pages you turn, the more you are faced with the pain, fear and uncertainty the characters wrestle with as they struggle with poverty and inequality while confronting stereotypes and systemic rac I received this anticipated debut novel in a Goodreads giveaway and tore through it in a matter of days. I want to call it a page-turner, and it truly was--I was completely absorbed in the very human story and invested in the characters and the outcome. Yet the deeper you get into the novel, and the more pages you turn, the more you are faced with the pain, fear and uncertainty the characters wrestle with as they struggle with poverty and inequality while confronting stereotypes and systemic racism. The characters, flawed and achingly real, jump off the page. Despite their suffering, they possess the strength, grace, compassion, humor and resilience that allows them to endure. I was moved by the sacrifices they were willing to make for each other, the connections they forged across racial and economic lines, and the reconfigured families they form to provide emotional anchors in good times and bad. This is the kind of book you wish everyone would read, and it's sure to generate lots of discussion, which makes it perfect for book clubs. Johnson unflinchingly addresses some of the biggest and most urgent societal issues we face with nuance and compassion, while telling a story that had me completely hooked. Would Midnight and Corey be safe? Would Ruth be able to save her marriage when she confronts her past? I recommend this novel with enthusiasm. I'm very glad I read it, and I'll encourage my friends to read it, too.

  17. 5 out of 5

    marta

    “A lie could be kind to you if you wanted it to be, if you let it.” 2.7/5 The setting begins with the celebration of President Obama's win, and we learn Ruth is a successful African American chemical engineer living in a Chicago suburb with her husband. Already a couple of years into their marriage, Xavier begins to suggest the idea of kids. Unbeknownst to him, Ruth got pregnant in high school and her grandmother, who raised her, took the baby and said she would take care of it so Ruth would n “A lie could be kind to you if you wanted it to be, if you let it.” 2.7/5 The setting begins with the celebration of President Obama's win, and we learn Ruth is a successful African American chemical engineer living in a Chicago suburb with her husband. Already a couple of years into their marriage, Xavier begins to suggest the idea of kids. Unbeknownst to him, Ruth got pregnant in high school and her grandmother, who raised her, took the baby and said she would take care of it so Ruth would not have to give up her spot in Yale. After admitting the truth to her husband, she decides to travel back to Ganton, Indiana where she grew up and find her son. Simultaneously, we are introduced to an eleven year old poor white boy, Patrick, who prefers to himself as Midnight after mostly growing up and surrounding himself with black kids. We begin to see sides of poverty in the segregated neighboring towns as Midnight interacts with his grandma and friends. Thus begins a story tackling racism, poverty, segregation, abandonment, motherhood, and family issues. We see how Ruth's grandmother and brother live compared to her success. She's re-united with her childhood friend. Ruth starts to form a friendship with Midnight, and we see their aspiration to succeed. These issues are important, and the way they are presented in this fictional story is impactful. You really get to see how much a family will do for you (or won't do). However one of my setbacks with this novel is that it tried too much. A lot of these themes would appear at random points and never really develop beyond one instance. This is where I feel conflicted; I absolutely would recommend this novel, however it might not go to the depth that you were expecting. Be prepared for an honest portrayal of 2008 America and reflection on how a lot of these issues still exist in 2021.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Ruth is a successful Black engineer living with her husband in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. President Obama has just been elected and hope is in the air, but when her husband wants to start a family of their own, Ruth is forced to reckon with her past. She left her hometown in a factory town in Indiana to go to Yale- but not before she gave birth in secret at 17 years old. Before she can move forward she feels drawn home so she can make peace with her past, but this proves to be easier sa Ruth is a successful Black engineer living with her husband in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. President Obama has just been elected and hope is in the air, but when her husband wants to start a family of their own, Ruth is forced to reckon with her past. She left her hometown in a factory town in Indiana to go to Yale- but not before she gave birth in secret at 17 years old. Before she can move forward she feels drawn home so she can make peace with her past, but this proves to be easier said than done. This story is layered and heartfelt- and let’s be honest, messy! (But not as heavy as you might expect). It’s character driven and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Midnight, a young white boy who is desperate for connection, who could be a link to finding her son. These characters came alive, to the point where I was telling my husband all about them, as though they were my friends. The author takes on race and class and does so in a way that illustrates how privilege often doesn’t have anything to do with money. It’s about family, found family, motherhood, and reckoning with choices that are too late to change. I really really loved this debut, and hope you do too! I think if you enjoy Catherine Adel West’s SAVING RUBY KING or Tayari Jones’s AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, this could be for you. Thanks to @williammorrowbooks for sending!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Stenquist

    This is a real story with ups and downs and plenty to think about for everyone.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    For most of this book, I intended to give it a 3/5 rating - a bit meh, but with a good start. By the end, I was reading it just to be finished with it, and in m opinion it just wasn't salvageable. "The Kindest Lie" had a good plot concept, and great themes to work with, but it consistently underdelivered. Ruth was unsympathetic to a fault. She was selfish, judgmental, and inexplicably naive, given the fact that she was supposed to be this highly educated, tough woman who had overcome quite a bit For most of this book, I intended to give it a 3/5 rating - a bit meh, but with a good start. By the end, I was reading it just to be finished with it, and in m opinion it just wasn't salvageable. "The Kindest Lie" had a good plot concept, and great themes to work with, but it consistently underdelivered. Ruth was unsympathetic to a fault. She was selfish, judgmental, and inexplicably naive, given the fact that she was supposed to be this highly educated, tough woman who had overcome quite a bit, had faced plenty of racial injustice, and was demanding her rightful place in the world - then why was she so flat? So unable to see any kind of nuance? So completely lackluster? Her abject shock at her son's adoption being "off the books" was ludicrous, and she just came off as unfathomably stupid. That was only one of the many moments that had me thinking -- how is she so dense? Her attitude towards her sister in law was outright infuriating - how dare she preach that Cassie stand by her man when Ruth immaturely spends most of the book refusing to confront or talk to her own husband who, unlike Eli Tuttle, bears no fault in their rift?? Ruth goes from 11 years of (at least, it's implied) not thinking about her son to this one-track mind attitude of "I need to find MY son and make sure he's being raised by GOOD people" - it's incongruous and, frankly, gets more and more offensive throughout the book. The author tries repeatedly to make Ruth sympathetic or to paint her as loving up until and even after the moment where she cruelly injects herself to a young boy's life and makes his entire terrifying ordeal all about her. Of Ruth's husband, Xavier - he existed for no reason. He was a pointless character who was a weird amalgam of "good man" stereotypes, had no substance, and served as an (unconvincing) push for Ruth to go back home. So much of this book's driving plot was just absurd. The fact that we were supposed to believe in a tiny, close knit town, Ruth's teenage pregnancy was hidden so well that her best friend never knew? Despite the fact, of course, that Ruth is constantly described as so skinny and bony that a "big t-shirt" wouldn't hide a damn thing. And despite all the hush-hush secrecy of a literal home birth, a newborn apparently randomly appearing with a childless family, no paperwork, some shady Church dealings -- Ruth easily deduces who "her son" is because he has a giant, convenient birth mark on his face. The book just became more and more of a soapy cringe-fest, page after page. It's written badly - the dialogue sounds like platitudes taken from a college freshman's primer on race/class theory. The narrative descriptions are actually mostly wonderful, but the sin of "telling, rather than showing," is so present here that it's difficult to overlook. Take a shot every time Obama is mentioned for no other reason than to remind the reader that it's 2008, and the characters are Black. Take a shot every time the phrase "but it was the 90s, then" or some variation pops up. Take a shot every time Midnight, who has grown up in a town clearly constantly confronting racial tensions, has no fucking clue what's going on. The gang subplot was laughable, and felt very much like an author raised in Chicago having no idea what small time life is like, and thus trying to make it relatable to someone raised in the city, to a topic she could speak on. The final confrontation involving Midnight, Corey, and the police was so histrionic I almost quit the book - I do NOT doubt the ignorance and malice of white men and young white boys, but given Midnight's characterization up to that point, I found that act INTENSELY difficult to believe, and instead a very cheap plot device. The lack of emotion throughout this book, too, was just...odd. In a story that should have been a multifaceted, compelling, nuanced look at race, class, economic disaster, and motherhood in America, this was a clunky, weakly written ride through very (excuse the idiom) Black and White narratives - even in the literal sense, as the tone of the book kept harping on "This happened and Ruth was BLACK" and "This happened and Midnight was WHITE" - it wasn't a useful storytelling narrative. I mean, it's disappointing, because you've got Angie Thomas out here writing riveting, hard-hitting YA novels that deal with these topics, and you've got a book like Jacqueline Woodsen's "Red at the Bone" that does the same sort of thing so completely beautifully, and then ... there's this. There were no kind lies in this novel. And there weren't really any good points made, either.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    Ruth Tuttle and her husband, Xavier, are living their American dream in Chicago. They’re both highly-educated, have lucrative jobs and celebrating Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory when a secret Ruth has been keeping for years comes crashing through the perfect life they’ve built together. In all their talk of having kids, Ruth has only now disclosed that she’d previously given birth at 17, before the child was put up for adoption. Now armed with questions of her own, Ruth heads back to her h Ruth Tuttle and her husband, Xavier, are living their American dream in Chicago. They’re both highly-educated, have lucrative jobs and celebrating Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory when a secret Ruth has been keeping for years comes crashing through the perfect life they’ve built together. In all their talk of having kids, Ruth has only now disclosed that she’d previously given birth at 17, before the child was put up for adoption. Now armed with questions of her own, Ruth heads back to her hometown of Ganton, Indiana to find her lost son and try to understand how she could have let him go in the first place. Ganton represents a lot of American towns in decline over the past few decades. As manufacturing and traditional blue-collar jobs have dried up, so has the soul of the town itself. Right when the Great Recession was hitting Americans the hardest, Barack Obama was elected, creating a lot of opportunity but also generating an excessive amount of pushback. The white residents of Ganton resented him taking office for a multitude of reasons, but the feeling that something was being ‘taken’ from them and given to someone like Obama seemed to be at the root of a lot of them. The son of one of these aggrieved, unemployed white men, Midnight (real name Patrick), forms a bond with Ruth after meeting her through their respective grandmothers. Midnight is struggling and Ruth can see it, and in him she sees refractions of the son she left behind. The relationship between Ruth and Midnight is the kind of tentative friendship that I think a lot of people will find comforting—where two people who have had vastly different experiences are able to see parts of themselves in one another. I was fascinated with how Ruth’s family justified keeping the details of her son’s adoption from her for all these years. Mama, the grandmother who raised her, genuinely believed that she was doing what was best both for her granddaughter and her great-grandson. Even Eli, Ruth’s brother, was keeping many of these secrets from his sister. While I don’t think Ruth made perhaps the smartest or most well thought-out decision in every situation, I really couldn’t blame her for any of the choices she made based on the circumstances she found herself in. The adults around her at the time are the ones that I put most of the blame on when things turned out poorly. They not only made the decisions for her, but lied to her out of “love” everyday after. What kept this from being a five star read for me was that it just didn’t feel like much...happened. The themes and characters are all there, I just needed more plot. I don’t want to say I was bored while reading the entire time, but I had trouble picking The Kindest Lie back up after putting it down. Other than that, it was an interesting exploration of the idea of the American dream, chosen families, race in America and how lies snake their way through all of them, distorting our perception of the truth. A solid debut from author Nancy Johnson, I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next. *Thank you to Brittany, Jess, Carrie & Jordan for including me in this month’s Mystery Book Club! And thanks to William Morrow for my finished copy!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Del

    Through a fast-paced, compelling story with authentic dialogue, Nancy Johnson's The Kindest Lie offers readers nuanced views of the intersecting, complexities of race, class and identity not often found in contemporary novels. African American Ruth Tuttle from an Indiana, now-shuttered factory town defies expectations with her acceptance to Yale, but not before the Grandmother who raised Ruth urges her to conceal the birth of her son. Years later, Ruth also conceals the birth from the man she ma Through a fast-paced, compelling story with authentic dialogue, Nancy Johnson's The Kindest Lie offers readers nuanced views of the intersecting, complexities of race, class and identity not often found in contemporary novels. African American Ruth Tuttle from an Indiana, now-shuttered factory town defies expectations with her acceptance to Yale, but not before the Grandmother who raised Ruth urges her to conceal the birth of her son. Years later, Ruth also conceals the birth from the man she married who hails from a privileged, African American family. The novel begins on the night of Obama's 2008 election. Ruth soon returns home alone at Christmas seeking the whereabouts of the baby she abandoned years ago, and teams up with white, motherless ten-year-old boy nicknamed Midnight in a polarized town where race-based violence between both young people and adults is not uncommon.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alisha Rohde

    I received an advance reader's copy in a Goodreads giveaway; that said, I was already very interested in reading this novel. I particularly enjoyed the range and depth of the characters in this story: not just Ruth and Midnight, but their families and the whole community of Ganton, Indiana. Johnson deftly explores the diversity of experiences in this working-class town, where the economic downturn is felt on so many levels. The story digs into both racial and class tensions, deep legacies and the I received an advance reader's copy in a Goodreads giveaway; that said, I was already very interested in reading this novel. I particularly enjoyed the range and depth of the characters in this story: not just Ruth and Midnight, but their families and the whole community of Ganton, Indiana. Johnson deftly explores the diversity of experiences in this working-class town, where the economic downturn is felt on so many levels. The story digs into both racial and class tensions, deep legacies and the complex interactions of family loyalties and love. THE KINDEST LIE pulled me in and kept me turning the pages to find out how the story would unfold. I look forward to reading more stories by Johnson in the future!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review prior to publication. I am not receiving any compensation for a positive review. The Kindest Lie wrapped me into the family and each character from the first page. The book centers on a young woman searching for the child she was forced to give up for adoption years ago. More than that though, it is a story about knowing ourselves and our families and where we fit into that family. The realities of racism in America and the fear that Black Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review prior to publication. I am not receiving any compensation for a positive review. The Kindest Lie wrapped me into the family and each character from the first page. The book centers on a young woman searching for the child she was forced to give up for adoption years ago. More than that though, it is a story about knowing ourselves and our families and where we fit into that family. The realities of racism in America and the fear that Black parents face as they watch their children grow was handled honestly and tactfully. I gave up on 5 books this week before finding this gem. It held me spellbound from the first page.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin Cataldi

    Raw and vibrant; this debut novel from Nancy Johnson is a must read. Ruth and Xavier are living their dream life in Chicago - things are going so good that Xavier is talking about kids. He's ready and they're ready financially - the only hold up is Ruth. When she finally tells him the secret that she's kept hidden for eleven years - everything starts to fall apart. Why did she wait so long to tell him and is there any way she can fix the damage done to him and to her own family? Since they're no Raw and vibrant; this debut novel from Nancy Johnson is a must read. Ruth and Xavier are living their dream life in Chicago - things are going so good that Xavier is talking about kids. He's ready and they're ready financially - the only hold up is Ruth. When she finally tells him the secret that she's kept hidden for eleven years - everything starts to fall apart. Why did she wait so long to tell him and is there any way she can fix the damage done to him and to her own family? Since they're no longer talking she decides to head back to Indiana to stay with her grandma and brother for the holidays. She hasn't seen them since her wedding and she has some serious soul searching to do. Maybe she'll even find the answers to the questions that she's looking for and some answers she didn't even know she needed to discover. A beautiful tale of love, loss, redemption, second chances, and the pursuit of the American dream. Heart wrenching at moments but filled with beautiful and flawed characters that resonate with readers long after they've put the book down.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily Smith

    This gets a big “meh” rating from me. There’s a lot in here to work with, but it never really met its potential. As Ruth and her husband begin to talk about starting their own family she is forced to reconcile with the secret she’s kept for 11 years - even from her own husband. At 17 she gave birth and let her grandmother carry the baby away, only to never see him again, so she could pursue her dreams of Yale and a better life than the rough life that most in her Indiana hometown go on to lead. This gets a big “meh” rating from me. There’s a lot in here to work with, but it never really met its potential. As Ruth and her husband begin to talk about starting their own family she is forced to reconcile with the secret she’s kept for 11 years - even from her own husband. At 17 she gave birth and let her grandmother carry the baby away, only to never see him again, so she could pursue her dreams of Yale and a better life than the rough life that most in her Indiana hometown go on to lead. When she returns home to find her son and find answers, she befriends a young boy known as Midnight. First of all...let me say that I just could not get on board with the nickname Midnight and it drove me nuts the entire novel. I felt like I was reading about a cat and not a boy. Secondly, Ruth is not totally likeable. She remains incredibly selfish throughout the whole book though the author tries (and fails) to make her sympathetic. Many parts of this book drug and I felt like I really had to push through it, I kept waiting for the above 4.15 star average rating to come through but it never. This felt like a clunky debut - the author didn’t do well showing us what the characters were thinking or feeling and she could have really left Midnight’s perspective completely out and the story would have been just fine. In fact, it probably would have been far more compelling to give us Ruth’s husband Xavier’s perspective or flashback to Mama’s perspective from the time Ruth gave birth. Not impressed with this one and rounding up to a 3 because there were some good themes in here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lian Dolan

    Wow. The Kindest Lie is a stunner and I have no doubt it will be a much-discussed book of 2021 and a book club favorite. There is so much to unpack here. Author Nancy Johnson has created an immersive world of generations of heartbreak, old mistakes that never fade, and imperfect love. There are complicated relationships between every combination: wife and husband; mother and daughter; brother and sister; and between friends. Set in the heady days of post-election 2008, The Kindest Lie also takes Wow. The Kindest Lie is a stunner and I have no doubt it will be a much-discussed book of 2021 and a book club favorite. There is so much to unpack here. Author Nancy Johnson has created an immersive world of generations of heartbreak, old mistakes that never fade, and imperfect love. There are complicated relationships between every combination: wife and husband; mother and daughter; brother and sister; and between friends. Set in the heady days of post-election 2008, The Kindest Lie also takes on the fragile hope and entrenched racial issues of the days that make the story seem of the moment in 2020. Put this title on TBR list, for sure.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Yun

    DNF - The ideas in here have potential, but the writing style makes it impossible to get into the story. Everything is so disjointed, I'm not even sure what I'm reading and how it's contributing to the overarching story. There is so much telling, and no showing. The narrative is propelled forward by a mishmash of anecdotes and memories and digressions, one after another. Pretty much every paragraph is a new thought, but there isn't enough space to develop it, so it's all on the surface. It feels DNF - The ideas in here have potential, but the writing style makes it impossible to get into the story. Everything is so disjointed, I'm not even sure what I'm reading and how it's contributing to the overarching story. There is so much telling, and no showing. The narrative is propelled forward by a mishmash of anecdotes and memories and digressions, one after another. Pretty much every paragraph is a new thought, but there isn't enough space to develop it, so it's all on the surface. It feels like the author hit upon a good idea that's the length of a short story, and then proceeded to stuff it out with an entire book's worth of clichés, buzzwords, and irrelevant fillers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Denise Adele K

    The Kindest Lie is set the south side of Chicago and in working-class Indiana, alongside the recent election of the President Barack Obama. Ruth Tuttle has escaped the small town she grew up in and has never looked back. When her husband begins to discuss planning to have a family, Ruth's past catches up with her and she thinks about the son that she gave up for adoption at age 17, in order to leave her hometown and chase her dreams at Yale. This book was exceptional, and wove together so many c The Kindest Lie is set the south side of Chicago and in working-class Indiana, alongside the recent election of the President Barack Obama. Ruth Tuttle has escaped the small town she grew up in and has never looked back. When her husband begins to discuss planning to have a family, Ruth's past catches up with her and she thinks about the son that she gave up for adoption at age 17, in order to leave her hometown and chase her dreams at Yale. This book was exceptional, and wove together so many complex feelings and emotions in such a stunning way.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Penner

    Outstanding. So much insight, emotion...well-paced tension throughout... truly, I adored this debut by dear friend Nancy Johnson. One of my favorite reads of the year. I won’t forget this book anytime soon.

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