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The Kindest Lie
Cover of The Kindest Lie
The Kindest Lie
A Novel
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Named a Most Anticipated book by O Magazine * GMA * Elle * Marie Claire * Good Housekeeping * NBC News * Shondaland * Chicago Tribune * Woman's Day * Refinery 29 * Bustle * The Millions * New York Post...
Named a Most Anticipated book by O Magazine * GMA * Elle * Marie Claire * Good Housekeeping * NBC News * Shondaland * Chicago Tribune * Woman's Day * Refinery 29 * Bustle * The Millions * New York Post...
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  • Named a Most Anticipated book by O Magazine * GMA * Elle * Marie Claire * Good Housekeeping * NBC News * Shondaland * Chicago Tribune * Woman's Day * Refinery 29 * Bustle * The Millions * New York Post * Parade * Hello! Magazine * PopSugar * and more!


    "The Kindest Lie is a deep dive into how we define family, what it means to be a mother, and what it means to grow up Black...beautifully crafted." —JODI PICOULT


    "A fantastic story...well-written, timely, and oh-so-memorable."—Good Morning America


    "The Kindest Lie is a layered, complex exploration of race and class." —The Washington Post


    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.

About the Author-

  • A native of Chicago's South Side, Nancy Johnson worked for more than a decade as an Emmy-nominated, award-winning television journalist at CBS and ABC affiliates nationwide. A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she lives in downtown Chicago and manages brand communications for a large nonprofit. The Kindest Lie is her first book.

Reviews-

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2020
    Generational secrets, class divides, motherhood, and American life on the edge of political and economic change are all examined in Johnson's engaging debut. Ruth Tuttle and her husband, Xavier, are young Black professionals living in Chicago just after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. When Xavier expresses his desire to start a family, Ruth, an engineer, confesses that she had a child when she was still in high school. Her revelation puts a strain on their marriage, and Ruth realizes that she must come to terms with her tumultuous past before moving forward. After avoiding her small Indiana hometown for years, Ruth returns to her grandmother's house, hoping to discover what happened to her son. As she reconnects with her grandmother, brother, and old friends and meets a lonely young boy nicknamed Midnight, what she finds is a town deeply impacted by the Great Recession, increasing racial tensions, and a lifetime of secrets that will change her future. Through well-developed characters, Johnson provides a realistic portrayal of middle America in the tumultuous era of economic collapse.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Anticipation runs high, supported by a sizable print run, for former television journalist Johnson's first novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 14, 2020
    Johnson’s sharp debut takes a deep dive into the life of a Black Chicago woman after the 2008 presidential election. Ruth Tuttle, 29, feels like she’s made it: she’s married to a Pepsi exec and thriving in her own career as a chemical engineer. However, her marriage hits a rocky spot when, during a talk with her husband, Xavier, about having children, she reveals she had a son at age 17. Her grandmother, Mama, who raised her, encouraged Ruth to give up her son to fulfill her dreams, and now, after Ruth asks for help in finding him, Mama tells Ruth not to go digging up the past. Still, Ruth returns to Ganton, determined to find her son before she starts a family with Xavier. With the auto plant that employed her brother, Eli, and her grandfather now closed, the town is reeling. Here, Johnson’s lens widens to address the increasing racial divide following Obama’s election, and she dramatizes it through a friendship forged between Ruth and an 11-year-old white boy named Midnight, whose abusive father also lost his job. Midnight is friends with a Black boy named Corey Cunningham, who Ruth deduces is her son after Eli defends him from a racially motivated attack by a group of white boys. As Ruth learns more about what’s happened to her town and reckons with what she left behind, powerful insights emerge on the plurality of Black American experience and the divisions between rural and urban life, and the wealthy and the working class. Johnson’s clear-eyed saga hits hard.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2021

    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.--Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice "Nancy Johnson's The Kindest Lie is a layered, complex exploration of race and class.... Johnson is particularly adept at drawing the dividing lines between African Americans and working-class Whites, while at the same time illuminating the things they share... It is a tale of how lies and omissions can shape and warp us. It is a story about reconciliation, set against a backdrop of racism and resentments. But more than anything, it is a meditation on family and forgiveness."
  • Good Morning America "Race, class, family, and secrets are all on a collision course in Johnson's extraordinarily moving, timely read. Like a heat-seeking missile, her novel hones in on who we think we belong to and why, following the merging lives of Ruth, a black female engineer who seeks out the child she gave away, and Midnight, a young white boy struggling to find his place in the very poverty Ruth managed to escape. A gloriously written, stunning heart scorcher about who we are and what we could be."
  • Washington Post "A fantastic story of a marriage and what happens when one spouse secretly had a child prior to knowing the other.... This modern-day depiction of a woman in crisis and what she discovers about what she left behind is well-written, timely, and oh-so-memorable."
  • Los Angeles Times "In The Kindest Lie, Nancy Johnson gives us two unforgettable characters. Ruth and Midnight represent different Americas: one trending up, one spiraling down. Johnson—through graceful sentences, tenderness, dramatic expertise, and overflowing empathy—is able to twist these Americas into a singular portrait of a country in transition. This enviable debut enlightens while breaking your heart. A truly beautiful achievement."
  • Refinery 29 "Nancy Johnson's eloquently written, introspective, and emotionally resonant debut novel, The Kindest Lie, is a timely commentary on social justice, race relations, and what it means to be Black in today's America...With subtle details as rich as they are emotionally resonant, Johnson takes readers into Ruth's intimate struggle to find peace and come to terms with being an imperfect mother. The Kindest Lie is a visceral depiction of being Black in America, the quest for understanding and acceptance, the struggles of motherhood, and the strength of family amid the backdrop of a racially divided country."
  • Good Housekeeping "The Kindest Lie is a deep dive into how we define family, what it means to be a mother, what secrets we owe to those we love, and what it means to grow up Black. Does our past become the skeleton upon which our future fleshes out — or can we erase our beginnings? This beautifully crafted debut will keep you asking these questions and more."
  • Woman's Day "A heart-wrenching story of family, racism, poverty and love."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "[A] triumph, a deeply affecting work of truth and reconciliation over what it means to live the American Dream—and not just for the winners."
  • Rumaan Alam, New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind  "Hope and change upend quickly in Johnson's timely, heartwarming debut."
  • Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World "Generational secrets, class divides, motherhood, and American life on the edge of political and economic change are all examined in Johnson's engaging debut.... Through well-developed characters, Johnson...

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    William Morrow
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