Jena Henry's Reviews > Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
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it was amazing

One of the best parts of reading is finding a book that shows and teaches you something new. This lyrical and evocative book brings to the reader the world of art: painting, the creation of a mural, and the field of art restoration. I so enjoyed learning how artists think and create. And even, more I was swept away by the powerful story of Anna Dale and Morgan Christopher.

The story is based on a New Deal Public Works of Art Project called the 48 State Mural Competition. During the Depression, artists competed to paint a mural for a post office, one in each of the 48 states. This book has a dual timeline, and we meet artist Anna Dale in 1939. She has been chosen as an artist and assigned to create a mural for the post office in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina. She is young and talented, but grew up New Jersey, and is thus a “furriner” when she comes to the south to create her mural.

Morgan Christopher tells us her story in the present day. She is also a young adult, and she wants to be an artist, although her life has fallen off the rails. She comes to Edenton at the behest of a famous African American artist, Jesse Williams, for a mysterious reason. What is striking about the beginning of story, is that Anna and Morgan lived such parallel lives. We see Anna walking down the Main Street of Edenton in 1939, filled with hope and concern, and then we see Morgan walking the same streets with equal problems. We learn how Anna created her her mural, how she researched to chose the images she would paint, and the fascinating way that a large mural is created. We also see how Morgan learned to restore the same mural almost 80 years later.

In addition to the main characters, many other wonderful people inhabit this book. The townspeople of both eras, some delightful, some hideous, some caring and some crude, are all well-drawn and compelling to read about. Like a painting, there are many layers and shades of mystery in this book and I know you will find it hard to stop reading. There are also layers of issues that are interesting to read about from a perspective of 1939 and the present: race relations, abuse, and mental illness.

But most of all, this is a book about restoration: of the mural, but also the lives of Anna and Morgan. Sometimes it’s a big event, some times an act of bravery, and sometimes it’s love, but lives can be restored.

I highly recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a digital review copy. This is my honest review.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 24, 2019 – Shelved

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