Synopsis: North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career. But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with. But worse is still to come. Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever. Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.
My Review: I was unsure whether I would take to this book, especially since the setting is in rural North Carolina in the 1960’s. This was a time when race was divided and although we are now in the 20th century, racism is sadly still an issue for some in that part of the world. For that reason, I was undecided as to whether I really wanted to read this, but having read other DC books and loved them I started. I was pleased I made that choice as Diane Chamberlain has created a book that tells a story, and just that. She doesn’t sensationalise anything about it, but creates a story that will maybe make readers aware of the struggles that went on at that time.
Jane Forrester is far from the norm’ in the sixties as she is determined that although she is newly married, she still wants to have a career. I liked Jane and DC did an amazing job of recreating the unease that people felt in the sixties when women working was out of the ordinary. Very quickly we see Jane start her job as a social worker and are instantly taken into the world of the poorest people that are working in the tobacco fields. Ivy Hart is a young girl and lives with her Grandmother and sister. It took me not time to be transported to the conditions and type of life they had to lead.
As the story unfolds and we meet more workers and we begin to see the effects of the Eugenics Programme which was widely used in the sixties, and something I had never heard of until reading this book. As the book progresses you begin to see that there is a lot more to it that at first glance. The story peels back layers and weaves an absolutely gripping storyline making it impossible to stop reading. It’s a pretty sad story in one respect but one which had an absolutely amazing ending and a story that I loved from start to finish. Diane Chamberlain has singled herself out as an outstanding author by touching the reader emotionally, but at the same time still producing an amazing story which highlights historical events that some people may know nothing about.
This may not be for everybody as the subject matter may be too sensitive for some, but I found it absolutely gripping and would highly recommend it. It’s a book that will have remain in my memory banks for some time and I think if you haven’t read it you should certainly give it a try.