Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First thought before reading the book, “what a gorgeous book cover”

Second thought while reading the book,” what a quirky and apt title”

Third thought after finishing the book,” Overwhelmed!”

Another dual-time story that hits the right notes. Diane Chamberlain is an artist who paints such vibrant colors in her novel that it becomes extremely hard for a reader to take a break when reading. Both stories, set in 1940’s and 2018, are remarkable in that it shows the incredible strength of woman in fighting against all odds and achieving success.

Morgan Christopher in 2018 and Anna Dale in 1940 both faces adversities, Morgan is in prison for DUI and reckless driving causing irreparable damage to another girl, the guilt of the act itself killing her slowly. The conditions to be out of jail is tough, a 70 yr old mural painted by Anna Dale has to be restored in a very short span of time. Born to indifferent and unloving parents, she accepts the challenge offered to her by the very bitter Lisa, daughter of the famous Jesse Williams in spite of no formal training and no experience.
Anna arrives in Edenton North Carolina after having won the competition to paint a mural for the post office, where she meets the who’s who of the small town famous for its women tea party. She’s welcomed but also disparaged in equal measure as a local artist Martin Drapple has lost out to Anna in the competition. The town is teeming with racism and prejudice but Anna paints the mural of the town with her own interpretation. There are so many colorful characters that one can’t help but fall in love with each of them.
There’s so much being discussed in the story, mental illness suffered by Anna’s mother, racism, rape and abuse but there’s also enough detail about restoring art that even an ignorant person like me can follow thru. The slow and sweet romance included in the story added to its charm. The magical weaving of the story between the 2-time frames and how everything falls into place with a thrilling climax makes for such a bewitching read.

Highly recommended!

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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