The Kindest Lie

Morrow. Feb. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780063005631. $27.99. F
DEBUT Young marrieds Ruth and Xavier are educated Black professionals living well in a gentrified Chicago neighborhood. It’s 2008, Barack Obama has won the presidential election, and their townhouse is flooded with friends who feel that the election foretells hope for the Black community’s future. Xavier wants to start a family on the basis of such hope, but Ruth is hiding her past—she had a baby at age 17, the summer before she headed to Yale on a scholarship. To protect her promising future, her grandmother, brother, and pastor secretly found the baby a home through a sleazy lawyer. Ruth feels it’s time to tell Xavier about her baby, little knowing it will drive a wedge between them. She escapes alone to the poverty-stricken Indiana town where she grew up, hoping to locate the son she abandoned. Her arrival with her Yale degree, designer clothes, and expensive car stirs resentment and sets off a chain of events that awakens Ruth’s awareness of her Black heritage, her humble origins, and what family really means. Through unlikely connections, old and new, she is driven to find her boy.
VERDICT Johnson’s debut novel will appeal to a wide range of readers, who will be drawn into the despairing lives of her characters. Ruth’s predicament comes to a most satisfying conclusion.
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