“I wished we lived right next to the ocean. When I said that, Mrs. Forrester said you could ruin a thing by wishing for something else.”
Jane Forrester is newly married and starts work as a social worker in a rural county in North Carolina. Her husband does not approve of her work overall, but especially because it takes her out in the country among African-Americans and away from taking care of their home and him. Ivy Hart and her family and neighbors are some of Jane’s clients and as she finds herself getting attached to the 15-year-old and her older sister, she discovers the “necessary lies” that she is expected to tell in her line of work.
Necessary Lies was the May book club choice for a moms’ book club I’m a part of. The book was captivating and had me staying up late to find out what would happen to Jane and Ivy in the end. I also learned a lot about this time in history – when social workers could make life-altering decisions for their clients and feel justified. It was a time when many people were forcibly sterilized due to poverty and sometimes without their knowledge and consent.
Jane finds out Ivy’s older sister, who has one child, was sterilized after being told she had appendicitis. Plans are in the works to sterilize Ivy as well, but Jane only feels it is right that Ivy is informed before the procedure. Before Jane can fight the battle for Ivy, Ivy winds up pregnant and Jane is fired for caring too much. There are many other twists and turns in their journey in the book and the ending is not to be missed.
I always appreciate a book that has a great storyline, but also teaches me something as well. I did not know how widely the forced sterilization was in this country well into the 1950s-70s. Some states apologized and tried to give some restitution to the victims, but some states still have not. A few sentences on a few forms and a signature of a social worker or relative were enough to justify taking away a young person’s fertility. It was a very sad thing to learn about, but good to read through a character who sought justice.
I would recommend this book to any adult. It is quite a captivating and interesting read. It deals with the adult topics I’ve mentioned. It would make a great book club choice – I know I wanted to talk to people about it when I finished reading it.
Have you read Necessary Lies? What did you think? Comment below!