The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson: Book Review

The Kindest Lie Rating: 4.5/5

The Kindest Lie Synopsis: Ruth should have everything that she wants. She’s a Yale graduate with an engineering career, a devoted husband, and Obama just won the 2008 election. When her husband, Xavier, brings up starting a family of their own Ruth tells him the darkest secret she has: she already had a child at 17. Realizing she has no answers to any of her questions and a deep need to know, she journeys back to her home town, an industrial small town that’s suffering under the recession with the factory just having shut down. Her life is jarringly different than those she left behind. While searching for her son she befriends Midnight, a lost white child who desperately wants guidance. In a town with racial and economic tensions, Ruth is determined to figure out what happened to her child.


Read this book. It’s powerful. The first paragraph should be enough to encourage you to read it.

Perhaps it hits a bit too close to home for me and that’s why I feel so strongly about it, but still put it on your TBR. My family is from an industrial small town on the south side of Ft. Wayne and this hit so freaking close (the photo was actually taken there). My aunt and uncle work at the RV factory and reading this book was like reflecting on a memory of theirs. I cannot believe that this is Johnson’s debut novel. It’s incredibly layered and emotional. My only issue was that it didn’t seem to wrap up. There was a ton of feeling going into the end and with the build of it for everything to just mellow out. I can see why Johnson did it, but I wish there would have been some more finality in the ending.


  • Characters: Nancy Johnson is amazing at creating characters that feel like real people. Their flaws, strengths, hopes, and fears are so perfectly intertwined into the writing that they become real. I felt such a strong connection to Ruth because she reminded me of my mother in a way. While she’s not a college graduate or was a teen mother, rather she (and my father) escaped from the constant cycle poverty in a small town and it’s jarring for them to go back home and see it. The characters that stayed in Ganton reminded me so much of my extended family and my parent’s old friends. It was weird for me, but it is perfect writing.
  • Setting: If you had never been to a small midwest industrial town and you read this novel I promise you that you now have. It’s weird. The way that the town was set up into different “districts” was exactly correct. Hanging out with people or being discouraged to in ways that are thinly veiled racism are done in a way that I, unfortunately, recognize. Like I said, this book is phenomenal at being so close to real that it’s incredible.


  • Ending: It let me down a little bit if I’m being honest. I expected a certain level of finality but was left with a lot more questions than answers. I don’t know if that’s what Johnson had intended to do, but either way it kinda annoyed me. There was a lot of build up to the end, especially emotionally, but then it mellowed out. I don’t really know how else to explain this without you having read it. So when you’re done comment below or email me at so we can discuss. I need to.
  • Immaturity: I both liked and disliked the similar cords of Ruth and Midnight. They both were searching for the missing link of themself/family and that resonated with me. However, they are both put in the place of “child” when it comes to others. Everyone is out to protect them from the world and they are told that they cannot handle the truth. It was frustrating to read this the entire way through the book. Especially for Ruth, whom they put on a pedestal but don’t allow her to make any decisions. And no one ever answers Midnight. I wanted more for him too. I felt so bad that no one ever answered his questions because he was bursting full of them.
  • Gangs: With the recession occurring in the town there are said to be gangs probably from Chicago coming into town. Um, they’re driving at minimum 1.5 hours to get to the Wabash River. That just seems unlikely. I mean I’m not in a gang nor do I personally know any, so maybe they do take road trips or send out recruiters IDK. But geographically? It doesn’t make sense and a little more clarity was needed for me.

Long Story Short

Do I recommend this novel? Hell yes. If you haven’t gotten the gist of my love for this book yet, please reacquaint yourself with the above review. It is incredibly compelling and emotional. The way that Johnson deals with racism and poverty in a small town is perfect. I cannot wait to see what she will write next because I will 100% buy it! Please read this novel!!!!

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

I purchased this book from Book Of The Month through my subscription.
Here is the Amazon Link (I am NOT affiliated with Amazon)
What were your thoughts on The Kindest Lie? Let me know. I need to discuss it with others!!

All opinions are of my own are not reflective of anyone else. I buy/loan all of the books I review unless specified and I only give my 100% true opinion on them.

If you do BOTM I highly recommend adding The Dating Plan onto your next box! It is a fun and sweet romance that I enjoyed reading! Read my full review of it here.


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