The Kindest Lie: A Novel (Hardcover)
February 2021 Indie Next List
“You know you are in the hands of a natural storyteller from the very first pages of The Kindest Lie, a story of unlikely friendships, difficult choices, and the untold burden of our past. Ruth is compelled to return to the hometown she fled to pursue her dreams. Midnight is a boy broken and in search of a safe port amidst the stormy seas of his young life. Both have been impacted by the brutal politics of race and class in modern America, and both must find a way to heal their broken hearts. A moving story of the compassion and strength needed to move past fear and distrust and begin to hope for a better future.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Named a Most Anticipated book by O Magazine * GMA * Elle * Marie Claire * Good Housekeeping * NBC News * Shondaland * Chicago Tribune * Woman's Day * Refinery 29 * Bustle * The Millions * New York Post * Parade * Hello! Magazine * PopSugar * and more!
“The Kindest Lie is a deep dive into how we define family, what it means to be a mother, and what it means to grow up Black...beautifully crafted.” —JODI PICOULT
"A fantastic story...well-written, timely, and oh-so-memorable."—Good Morning America
“The Kindest Lie is a layered, complex exploration of race and class." —The Washington Post
A promise could betray you.
It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
About the Author
A native of Chicago’s South Side, Nancy Johnson worked for more than a decade as an Emmy-nominated, award-winning television journalist at CBS and ABC affiliates nationwide. A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she lives in downtown Chicago and manages brand communications for a large nonprofit. The Kindest Lie is her first book.
“Johnson’s rich examinations of ambiguities in this moral dilemma take center stage, but institutional racism and its constant, draining impact are the boards these players stand on. And can’t escape…The Kindest Lie is an easy, accessible novel filled with hard, important truths.”
— New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
"A fantastic story of a marriage and what happens when one spouse secretly had a child prior to knowing the other.... This modern-day depiction of a woman in crisis and what she discovers about what she left behind is well-written, timely, and oh-so-memorable."
— Good Morning America
“Hope and change upend quickly in Johnson’s timely, heartwarming debut.”
— O magazine
“The Kindest Lie is a layered, complex exploration of race and class.”
— Washington Post
"[A] triumph, a deeply affecting work of truth and reconciliation over what it means to live the American Dream—and not just for the winners."
— Los Angeles Times
"A profound look at racial and economic injustices in America."
— Refinery 29
"A heart-wrenching story of family, racism, poverty and love."
— Good Housekeeping
"This heart-wrenching story teaches us how long love really endures."
— Woman’s Day
“Johnson’s sharp debut takes a deep dive into the life of a Black Chicago woman after the 2008 presidential election… Powerful insights emerge on the plurality of Black American experience and the divisions between rural and urban life, and the wealthy and the working class. Johnson’s clear-eyed saga hits hard.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Generational secrets, class divides, motherhood, and American life on the edge of political and economic change are all examined in Johnson's engaging debut…. Through well-developed characters, Johnson provides a realistic portrayal of middle America in the tumultuous era of economic collapse.”