Category Archives: Chamberlain, Diane

Diane Chamberlain. Necessary Lies. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013.

Necessary LiesJane Forrester’s (née Mackie) husband, Robert, can’t understand why his new wife wants to work. Neither can her mother nor any of the stay-at-home wives in her imposed social circle. When Jane and Robert first met, her quirks beguiled him. She wasn’t cut from the same cloth of the prototypical 1960s woman. Now that they’re official newlyweds, Robert wishes that Jane would join the Raleigh Junior League and derive satisfaction in being a physician’s wife, as well as the future mother of his unborn children. But Jane wants a chance at a brief career before children. She is sensitive and idealistic and interested in helping others through work. She gets hired as a social worker in the Department of Public Welfare shortly before their wedding. Robert tolerates Jane’s job, however he makes his desire for children and his short timetable known. With an M.D., Robert has ascended the socio-economic ladder and he is concerned acutely with fitting into his more well-heeled surroundings.

Robert is not thrilled when he learns that Jane will conduct field work alone in the fictional rural Grace County. Field work entails visiting the families of the cases that the social worker manages to monitor their needs and progress. The social worker executes any actions or files any paperwork considered necessary for the greater good. Jane’s two first cases are the Hart and Jordan families who live and work on Davidson Gardiner’s farm. She neglects her boss’s advice and becomes invested emotionally in the Hart family, leading her to a series of choices that could violate the procedures of the Department of Public Welfare and negate the defined purpose of her position. But Jane feels unable to accept the rules as they’ve been handed to her. She is disturbed by how the department enforces its own code of morality and communicates its actions deceptively to the parties involved.

According Charlotte Werkmen, Jane’s boss and former social worker in charge of the case, fifteen year-old Ivy Hart is the last chance for the Hart family. Ivy’s older sister, Mary Ella has already given birth to a baby named William. Mary Ella is beautiful and slow, which Charlotte regards as a dangerous combination. Ivy and Mary Ella’s father is dead and mother is an institutionalized schizophrenic. They live in a farmhouse with their diabetic grandmother, Nonnie. Ivy worries about her family’s security in the farmhouse. Nonnie is increasingly unable to work and she has little regard for her health, indulging frequently in sugar. Because Nonnie is petulant and ornery and Mary Ella is unreliable and often missing, Ivy is the nucleus forced to mother and to hold the family together. By government standards, Ivy qualifies at a functioning level, but barely. She has an IQ of 80 and Petit Mal epilepsy. Charlotte warns Jane to watch Ivy carefully — if Ivy winds up pregnant, all her opportunities will evaporate.

Veteran novelist Diane Chamberlain deals with the sexism and racism prevalent during the 1960s and provides a historical basis to Necessary Lies. She alternates the story between Ivy and Jane’s points-of-view primarily. The novel explores the issue of people’s authority over their bodies. Chamberlain illustrates this point from both perspectives: a doctor refusing to prescribe Jane birth control without her husband’s permission to a eugenics program masked to its recipients as benevolent healthcare. The themes of control and consent reappear over the course of the novel, where institutions and people are given the power to make personal judgements for others. Additionally, the book questions the idea of people who are classified as “incapable” or “unfit” by official sanctioning. Who, if anyone, should have the agency to make decisions for those deemed “incapable” or “unfit”? Chamberlain offers an absorbing read on a fictionalized portrayal of a regrettable segment of North Carolina’s history.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chamberlain, Diane, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Wake

Diane Chamberlain. The Good Father. Don Mills, Ontario: Mira Books, 2012.

Travis Brown is struggling. A single father at the young age of twenty-two, he loses his mother and home in Carolina Beach, North Carolina to a terrible fire. Beyond the grief of his mother’s death, Travis has also lost the only source of free, reliable childcare he has for his four-year-old daughter Bella. Without it, he can’t keep his job as a construction worker, and without work, he and Bella are quickly living on the edge of homelessness. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to reach out to Bella’s mother Robin, Travis’s high school sweetheart– Robin’s father forced Travis to sign a contract after Bella was born, swearing that Travis would never again seek to contact her.

Robin Saville is living in Beaufort, North Carolina. Born with a serious heart condition, her teenage pregnancy nearly killed her, but the recent gift of a new heart has given her new hope for life. Lied to by her father and believing Travis to be happily married, Robin puts him and her baby behind her, beginning work at a small bed and breakfast in the coastal town. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with Beaufort’s wealthiest son, Dale Hendricks, but she does, and they quickly  engaged. The Hendricks clan are a central pillar of Beaufort life: politically active and well-connected, they present a perfect facade to the rest of the world. That is, until teenaged Alissa Hendricks, the youngest and proverbial black sheep of the family, gets pregnant. Suddenly Robin can’t stop thinking of her baby, and what she gave up. But how could she ever have her daughter back in her life?

Living in a trailer park in Carolina Beach and relying on the kindness of a new neighbor to look after Bella, Travis fruitlessly searches for work. But then the neighbor, a beautiful woman named Savannah, mentions that a friend in Raleigh has sure construction work. All Travis has to do is pick up and go. It seems tenuous, but Travis is desperate, so he and Bella hit the road for the state capital. But when they arrive, the situation is much different, and much more dangerous, than Travis was lead to believe. He’s willing to do anything for Bella…but will he do something that means he might lose her forever?

In a style that readers of Diane Chamberlain have come to know and love, the author weaves together three separate voices and lives to create yet another beautiful tale of parents and children in the Old North State.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Carteret, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, New Hanover, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Suspense/Thriller, Wake

Diane Chamberlain. Keeper of the Light Trilogy.

Set in the fictional Outer Banks town of Kiss River, Diane Chamberlain’s trilogy explores love, loss, and the power our loved ones have over our hearts and mind, even after death. The trilogy centers on the four members of the O’Neill family: father Alec, mother Annie, and the children Clay and Lacey. Although Annie O’Neill is tragically murdered in the opening pages of Keeper of the Light, her presence remains a main character throughout the entire trilogy, inspiring and at times haunting those who survived her passing. Not least of these is her daugher, Lacey. Thirteen at the time of her mother’s violent death, we watch Lacey grow from a rebellious, grieving teenager into a thoughtful young artist who must eventually grapple with motherhood in her turn. Although the books are set around new characters who come into the O’Neills’ lives, the trilogy remains focused on this family, their struggles to overcome Annie’s death, and the compelling lighthouse on the fictional Kiss River.

Author Diane Chamberlain


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Filed under 1990-1999, 2000-2009, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Series

Diane Chamberlain. Keeper of the Light. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

In this first installment of a trilogy set in the fictional town of Kiss River on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Chamberlain introduces her readers to the O’Neill family. A talented artist, Annie Chase O’Neill is revered by the locals. Playfully known as Saint Anne, her light, energy, and caring for others has given unfathomable gifts to the community. Dr. Olivia Simon, new to the area, has never met the famed Saint Anne, and is shocked to realize that the woman’s heart she literally holds in her hand one fateful Christmas Eve at the Kiss River Emergency Room belongs to her. Shot directly through the heart, Olivia knows immediately that the only chance to save the woman’s life is to attempt surgery, even though her staff would feel more comfortable air-lifting Annie to a larger facility. In spite of all of Olivia’s best efforts, Annie dies on the table, leaving behind a grieving husband and children. But this is just the beginning.

Olivia’s journalist husband, Paul, has been obsessed with Annie ever since he and Olivia moved to Kiss River from Washington, DC. Olivia thinks that his fixation began with an interview he did with Annie for the local paper, but as this story unfolds through present revelations and past reflection, we find that Paul and Annie’s relationship went much deeper than Olivia knew. Olivia’s marriage in ruins, the situation is further complicated when Annie’s handsome widower, Alec O’Neill, comes looking for answers about that night in the ER. Soon a complicated love square forms between Olivia, Alec, Paul, and Annie’s shade. In the center of it all is the Kiss River Lighthouse: a symbol of all that Annie loved and was. The lighthouse is scheduled to be moved in order to make way for construction, and both Alec and Paul throw themselves into the committee dedicated to saving it. Meanwhile, Olivia slips further and further into Annie’s life, becoming obsessed with understanding what made this woman so special. As the three adults circle slowly around Annie’s memory, it becomes increasingly clear that Annie and Alec’s troubled 14-year-old daughter Lacey, the spitting image of her murdered mother, is the one they should be watching.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library’s catalog.


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Filed under 1990-1999, 1992, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship

Diane Chamberlain. The Midwife’s Confession. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2011.

Thus far 2010 has been a difficult year for Tara Vincent and Emerson Stiles. First, Tara’s husband, Sam, dies in a car accident; then their best friend, a local midwife named Noelle Downie, inexplicably commits suicide. Sam, Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since attending UNC Wilmington together in the 1970s, so the double loss is especially hard. The Noelle who Tara and Emerson knew was an ethical, passionate human being devoted to her work; she had no secrets, especially from them. But it appears they didn’t know the real Noelle, something that becomes uncomfortably evident as her private papers reveal more and more about her life, her family, and a horrifying mistake that may have led to her mental destruction.

The shocking revelations pile up, but what hurts Tara even more is the gaping distance growing between her and her daughter, sixteen-year-old Grace. Quiet, dark Grace was especially close to her father, as different from the blonde and outgoing Tara as night is from day. Tara loves her daughter desperately, but she feels helpless to repair their foundering relationship. She envies Emerson’s easy, close bond with her daughter (and Grace’s best friend), Jenny. But Noelle’s secrets will spiral wide to include both mothers and daughters, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Diane Chamberlain presents a heartfelt, intriguing novel about familial relationships: both those we construct through friendships, and those we are born into. No matter how close we are, we never truly know those we love as well as we might think. Written from multiple first-person viewpoints, Chamberlain tells the tales of Noelle, Grace, Tara, and Emerson across fifty years, flowing effortlessly between the past and present. This is an excellent beach read, book club novel, or for any time.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Mystery, New Hanover, Robeson, Romance/Relationship

Diane Chamberlain. Summer’s Child. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2010.

Daria Cato thought of Rory Taylor as her best friend.  Their family had summer houses on the same cul-de-sac in Kill Devil Hills.  Daria and Rory would run on the beach together and play all kinds of games. Rory, three years older than Daria, told himself that he was “letting”  Daria win, but she was a spirited and feisty child who could hold her own against her fun-loving playmate. But when Rory became a teenager, their relationship changed.  Daria developed a crush on Rory just as Rory gravitated to friends his own age.

Daria briefly had Rory’s attention–and everyone else’s–the morning of her eleventh birthday when she found a newborn baby on the beach.  This shocking event had the community abuzz for weeks.  When the baby’s mother could not be found, Daria’s parents adopted the child.  As the girl, Shelly, grew, it was evident that the circumstances of her birth affected her development.  Daria, always protective of Shelly, moved with Shelly back to the Outer Banks since that is where Shelly is most at ease.  At twenty, Shelly works for the local Catholic Church, and Daria is a carpenter and EMT.  It’s a comfortable, if not joyful, life that Shelly upsets when she contacts Rory, now the producer of a hit television series, True Life Stories. Shelley wants Rory to uncover the truth about her birth.

Rory’s arrival back in Kill Devil Hills unsettles Daria, her sister Chloe, and other locals.  Daria worries that Shelly will not be able to absorb the truth, if Rory finds it, but Daria should be worried about herself.  Daria is struggling with guilt over a failed rescue and with sadness at the end of a long-term romance.  Daria needs someone to confide in, but those closest to her have secrets to hide–both in the past and the present. Those secrets eventually come out but the passage of time allows most of the characters to forgive the mistakes of youth–their own and others.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Dare

Diane Chamberlain. The Lies We Told. Don Mills, Ontario: Mira, 2010.

A marriage can go on for some time, with normal ups-and-downs, until something causes a delicate balance to falter.  Maya and Adam, both physicians, have been married for over a decade.  Both would like to have children, but Maya has been unable to carry a pregnancy to term.  The reason for this is unclear.  When a doctor suggests that scarring from an abortion could be the cause, Maya must tell the doctor and her husband that when she was a teenager, she had  an abortion.  Adam is angry that Maya had not told him that sooner, and a rift develops between them.

Maya is close with her sister Rebecca, who is also a physician.  But while Maya and Adam are in comfortable suburban practices in the Triangle, Rebecca jets to emergency sites around the world as a member of Doctors International Disaster Aid (DIDA).  Rebecca has long tried to persuade Maya and Adam to join her, even for just one trip. Shortly after Maya and Adam’s fateful discussion in the doctor’s office, a Category Four hurricane hits Wilmington.  Maya and Adam agree to join the DIDA team.

As the three work together, Rebecca comes to realize that she envies her sister and the stable life that she leads.  When Maya is on a helicopter that goes down in flood-waters, Rebecca and Adam are drawn together in their fear and grief.  They do not know that Maya is alive, taken in by an odd collection–good and bad–of backwoods people.  As the sisters struggle with these new situations, each reflects on her life, and the great trauma of their youth–the murder of their parents.  Each has a secret related to that awful event.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Piedmont, Wake

Diane Chamberlain. Secrets She Left Behind. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2009.

This book picks up the story begun in Chamberlain’s earlier book, Before the Storm. As this new novel opens, Maggie Lockwood is about to be released from prison after serving time for her role in a church fire that killed three people.  Keith Weston wasn’t killed in that fire, but he was badly burned–scarred physically and emotionally.  That he had his own role in starting the fire is something he suppresses, instead focusing his anger on Maggie.  (In this he is not alone, most of the residents of Topsail are outraged that Maggie has been released from prison.) Keith is battling a lot of things–anger, pain, the storminess of adolescence–and he is completely unprepared for his mother to walk out of his life.  But she does.  Maggie’s family tries to help him, and soon all the characters are caught up in a revenge plot that none of them see coming

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Pender

Diane Chamberlain. Before the Storm. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA Books, 2008.

Topsail Islanders have room in their hearts for a flawed mother with a son who is a bit ‘different’ and a daughter who seems to have her act together. That changes after young Andy Lockwood becomes a hero for saving other children from a church fire. The fire, and the media attention it receives, unsettles the community. Perhaps things are not as they seemed. As the story unfolds, Laurel Lockwood has to defend her son from suspicion even as she mulls over the mistakes that she has made in her life and those that her children may have made.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Pender

Diane Chamberlain. Kiss River. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2003.

More than 10 years ago a hurricane damaged the Kiss River lighthouse, destroying the top of the tower and sending its Fresnel lens to the ocean floor. For reasons she is unwilling to share, Gina Higgins has traveled from Seattle to see the lighthouse and when she discovers the damage it sustained she becomes determined to find the lost lens. The current residents of the lightkeeper’s house–a recent widower and his artist sister–invite Gina to stay with them and she begins her quest. Gina’s modern story is interspersed with the World War II-era diary entries of Bess Poor, the teen-aged daughter of one of the previous Kiss River lighthouse-keepers. This is the second book in a loosely-connected trilogy focused on the O’Neill family and their fictional town of Kiss River, N.C.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Dare, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship