3.0 out of 5 stars - Abuse of power...read July 13, 2013
Jane Forrester, newly married and recently graduated from Woman's College in Greensboro with a degree in sociology, is hired on as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare in Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1960s. Idealistic and with a desire to help others, she is assigned to white and Negro ("colored") welfare families living in Grace County and laboring together on tobacco farms as hired workers. While working with one family in particular, the Harts, Jane comes face to face with the effects of the Eugenics Sterilization Program utilized in North Carolina to mandate population control for those considered unfit to bear and raise children. What transpires between Jane, the Hart family, and others on the Gardiner farm as she rebels against the concept of forced sterilization changes their lives forever.
The story was interesting but the behavior of Jane required immense suspension of disbelief. For some reason I was unable to connect with her character, and though I felt immense sympathy for the Harts and the others, I was left unsatisfied by the unrealistic Lifetime movie-like conclusion. I did not read the short story prequel, THE FIRST LIE, and don't feel the need to go back and do so as everything in the novel was tied up neatly. The most interesting part of the book was the Author's Note at the end. I think the premise was fascinating, but the execution was predictable and the characters all just too one-dimensional.
I have read all of Diane Chamberlain's previous novels. I prefer the ones that involve a mystery, and those that delve into relationships between family and friends -- more the lies, secrets, betrayals type. I would guess that her fans will want to read this, and that most all who like it will be women. The central topic, state mandated sterilization for certain welfare recipients, would make a good one for a book club discussion.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC ebook.