Necessary Lies

Necessary Lies - Diane Chamberlain Ivy Hart is only fifteen years old, but for the past two years of her life she's had to take care of her older sister, Mary Ella, her grandmother - Nonnie, and her sister's son, Baby William. She's also had to help take care of the house, work in the tobacco fields, and attend school. Even with all she does, her family has very little to survive on. Her grandmother has high blood pressure and diabetes, her sister is most like mildly mentally retarded, her two-year-old nephew only says a few words, and she suffers from epilepsy. Ivy's father died when she was five and shortly after that her mother was admitted to a local mental hospital for viciously attacking a local woman. The only thing good is Ivy's life is her friendship/romance with Henry Allen, the son of the farmer that owns their home and the tobacco farm. She and Henry Allen dream of leaving North Carolina and heading out West to California.

Jane Forrester is an idealist and decades ahead of her time. She's a new graduate from college, a newlywed and a new hire in the North Carolina Department of Public Welfare as a social worker. In the South of 1962 it isn't seemly for the wife of doctor to work as social worker and Jane's husband feels she should be dedicating her time and energy to charitable work and their new home. Before she even starts work her job is a bone of contention between the newlyweds, but her husband reluctantly agrees that she can give it a try. Jane isn't ignorant of poverty or despair but she's never seen up close and personal, and the few weeks on the job teach her that very few in her department see their "clients" as human beings with needs, dreams and desires. These are just people that need to be subjected to more rules and regulations to keep them subjugated. One such rule that Jane has problems with is the principle of "eugenics" or sterilization that the department feels is a way to curb "certain people" from procreating. Regrettably, Ivy Hart fits the criteria for inclusion in this program and her grandmother and the local visiting nurse agree. Only Jane is willing to question the program and the way her department makes decisions for these people without any thought or regard to their own desires or dreams. Needless to say, Jane's attitude causes a lot of problems within her department and with her husband.

Ms. Chamberlain has crafted an intense story that provides a glimpse into our not-so-distant history with the eugenics program and its guidelines in the state of North Carolina. By having a person of authority, Jane Forrester, interact with people affected by the program, Mary Ella and Ivy, Ms. Chamberlain has provided a voice to the dissent against this program and the adverse affects the program caused. Although this is a highly emotional tale, I found it to be an interesting and fast read. After awhile it felt like I was witnessing people from the past rather than reading about fictional characters. There's a lot of drama and sadness in Necessary Lies, but there's also love, hope and perseverance. Ms. Chamberlain doesn't sugarcoat the adversities faced by Ivy Hunt or any of her neighbors. The picture provided of the poverty and despair isn't harsh or overly ugly but presented in a truthful and respectful manner. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Necessary Lies and can highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading fiction based on true historical events.