In “The Kindest Lie,” the focus is less on solving the mystery and more on exploring the intricate causes of racial injustice and the catastrophic decisions that may make or destroy a home or even affect an entire community. On such metrics, the story is a masterpiece, a truly moving piece of reconciliation and truth about the American Dream — but not only for the ones who win the race but from an all-assuming perspective.
For Ruth and her husband Xavier, the future seems bright. They’re proud of their accomplishments and are excited about the possibilities for the future.
We come to know about the first kid of Ruth’s on the opening page when it’s revealed that she had had a boy at the age of 17 (in the story). Because she hasn’t told her husband, who is eager to start a family, she hasn’t yet given birth to any children. Xavier’s persistence in having children together with Ruth forces Ruth to face her concerns, which opens up new possibilities for the story’s development.
As soon as Ruth admits the pregnancy, Xavier is shocked and upset, not because of her past but because of the fact that she had not trusted him enough to share her story with him. She argues for her actions by stating that she lacked guts. Then, abruptly, she departs for her hometown, where she had not been since her marriage about four years back, despite the fact that Christmas is just around the corner.
What follows is a skewed story about family, race, and also the American dream.
Ruth, a Yale-educated engineer, is intelligent, attractive, and egocentric, as she demonstrates early on when she gets defensive when Xavier wants to talk about her past.
Having kids with the man she loves makes Ruth want to trace her son (whom she had abandoned all those years back) and discover who has been caring for him for the last 11 years. She meets numerous new individuals and reconnects with old acquaintances while on this much-delayed quest of hers.
She also attempts to reach out to Mama, who had helped her hide her pregnancy from the judging eyes of society and had also helped her give birth to the kid. She wanted Mama to tell her all that had happened since she had given the infant up for adoption while Ruth could start her studies at Yale.
While Ruth reconnects with old acquaintances and the guy she befriended, she also learns more about her family’s history. She doesn’t, however, make any phone calls to Xavier. Days stretch into weeks, and weeks develop into months as Ruth’s obsession with finding her son intensifies.
She dives right into the investigation. A lawyer friend of hers helps her uncover that her kid was likely given to a couple in a backdoor deal.
As events lead up to Ruth realizing her son’s identity — and who had lovingly reared him all these years — the novel takes a sharp turn downhill, birthing events that are devastating for everyone concerned. After 11 years of no reflection, she wonders about recovering him, without considering even for a moment the impact it might have on a boy who is content to live with the family he had ever known. Even worse, she tells her son she is the biological parent of the boy in the midst of a frightening ordeal. In its brutality, it’s unnervingly stunning for a split second. Ruth is and has always been the center of attention of her universe.
The book is about revelations and realizations and the novel teaches lessons that many cannot seem to grasp even when they have journeyed much of life.
“The Kindest Lie” promises a strong narrative premise and interesting topics to deal with, yet it repeatedly underperformed.
Ruth was a jaded individual who lacked compassion to an extreme degree. The idea that she was meant to be this highly educated, strong lady who had conquered a lot, had suffered her fair share of racial oppression, and was rightly demanding her proper position in the society – so why was the character so plain? How can she be so blind to subtleties?
Xavier, Ruth’s husband, had no reason to be there. No one cared about him. He served only to urge Ruth to return to her family (that too rather unconvincingly) by being an implausible mixture of “good man” clichés.
So much of the plot that had me turning the pages in this novel was ridiculous. We were expected to think that in a small, close-knit community, Ruth’s adolescent pregnancy was kept secret so successfully that even the character’s closest friend never found out? There is no documentation and just some murky Church transactions, but Ruth is able to identify who “her son” is due to his large, perfect birthmark on his face, despite the hush-hush secrecy of his birth.
The author’s lack of feeling permeated the entire work, which struck me as strange. While the novel could have been a multidimensional, captivating, refined look at class and race, monetary issues and parenthood in America, but instead it was a cumbersome, poorly written journey through rather black and white discourses, pun intended, as even in the literal sense, as the mood of the narration kept fixating on why something happened to a particular character solely because of their race – it just was not a very effective plot narrative.
It is not that the plot is not good. There were various themes that the plot could have delivered in a much better manner. The themes if rowed correctly had the immense possibility of success rather than limiting itself to a rather flat narration that lacked emotions.
Well, maybe the fact that I had too much expectation harbored on this one had me falling even harder in the pit of frustration. However, the book is not a bad read. It has themes that are contemporary and need to be discussed more often. The narration, of course, though, could have been better.