Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is a dual timeline novel. One story follows Morgan Christopher who in 2018 is serving time in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center for a DUI that she swears happened when her boyfriend was driving and left her alone at the scene of the accident. Under a very strange set of circumstances, she is given parole on the condition that she go to Edenton, NC to restore a damaged mural within a two-month time frame. She learns that a famous African-American artist named Jesse Jameson Williams owned this mural. His will specifies that Morgan Christopher, who has never met him and who has no art restoration experience, must be the one to restore the mural in time for the opening of his art gallery in Edenton. Williams’ probate lawyer is the one who gets her out of prison early. If Morgan can pull this off, she not only gains her freedom from prison but will earn $50,000 from Mr. Williams’ estate.
The second timeline takes place in 1939 – 1940 where young New Jersey artist Anna Dale wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Anna moves to Edenton with such hope and joy to create the mural but found many in the town resented her for winning out over a local male portrait artist. She encountered racial prejudice when she used a very talented black student as one of her helpers. After a horrific incident, Anna began altering the mural with disturbing additions. How it ended up in such terrible condition and in the possession of Jesse Jameson Williams at the time of his death in 2018 is a mystery.
As Morgan begins the process of restoring Anna’s mural, she becomes deeply involved in trying to uncover the mystery behind the mural as well as trying to discover what became of Anna Dale, who disappeared before the painting was ever hung in the Post Office.
I enjoyed this book. I will give it 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars. It would be good for a book club discussion. It covers topics such as working women, racial prejudice, small-town gossip, alcoholism, and second chances. I also learned a few things about art restoration.