Big Lies in a Small Town [Book Review]

January 29, 2020

 Big Lies in a Small Town: by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town (cover)

Genre/Categories: Light Historical fiction, Light Mystery, Southern Fiction, Art

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Secrets, prejudice, and making peace with the past ….

Two young women living several decades apart are focused on the same mural….one is creating the mural in 1940 and the other is restoring the same mural in 2018. In alternate viewpoints and dual timelines, we hear both stories, the mystery of what happened to the original artist is uncovered, and connections between the two are revealed.

My Thoughts:

For me, it’s a good read when I’m engaged from beginning to end! Big Lies in a Small Town came to me at a perfect time when I needed something easy reading, light, engaging, and different from my usual heavier histfic. Restoration of a mural is the literary device that merges the timelines, connects the characters, and drives the story forward.

Timelines: Told in alternating perspectives and dual timelines, I wasn’t sure about the very short chapters at first. As I became involved with the story, I realized that these short chapters help the timelines merge in a way that feels like reading one complete story….one timeline illuminates the other. Short chapters allow the alternate timeline to immediately fill in the details that are missing from the previous timeline. The closely aligned and tightly crafted timelines are an effective literary device in this story. The author cleverly unravels the mystery and develops the characters as the mural is restored. By the time the mural is revealed, all the secrets are also revealed.

Characters: Both Morgan and Anna are likable, strong, and independent young women. When an author writes dual timelines, sometimes I am more invested in one character than the other. In this story, I loved both characters equally. We meet Morgan in 2018 as she is released on parole from North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center, and we meet Anna in 1940 as she wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Both young women are alone for various reasons, struggle with the same mural, and fight to make their own way. What decisions will define their lives? Will Anna overcome small town, southern prejudice to complete her mural? Why was the mural hidden in storage for decades? Will Morgan be able to finish the restoration in time? Will she be able to find out what happened to Anna and solve the mystery of her disappearance? How will these characters connect?

Themes: Poignant themes in this story include friendship, racism, prejudice, second chances, healing, finding your voice, safe places and people, mental health, taking risks, and making peace with the past.

Recommended: Equal parts character-driven and page-turning, Big Lies in a Small Town is a perfect selection for book clubs, for fans of gentle mystery, for readers who appreciate ambitious, strong women, and for those who are looking for a light histfic read with a hint of romance. This does not disappoint and is definitely a great read for fans of Diane Chamberlain!

***Trigger warning contains a spoiler***
Trigger/Content Warning: one rape scene that ends in violence

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

My Rating: 4.5  Stars (rounded to 5 on Goodreads)

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Big Lies in a Small Town (cover)

Big Lies in a Small Town Information

Meet the Author, Diane Chamberlain

Author, Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole.

Please visit Diane’s website at for her event schedule and for more information on her newest novel, Big Lies in a Small Town, as well as a complete list of her books.


Are you a Diane Chamberlain fan? Here’s my review of The Dream Daughter.

Have you read Big Lies in a Small Town or is it on your TBR?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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26 thoughts on “Big Lies in a Small Town [Book Review]

    • I think you’ll like it Debi! There might be one or two F words….but it’s minimal and I barely noticed. Let me know what you think! 👍 Thanks for commenting!


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