Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves (Robin Talley)

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“A stunning novel about love, race and finding the truth..”

TL;DR – A book about integration and the struggles POC faced in the late 1950’s. A very good read although I’m not so sure about the romantic angle.



Why I read it…

I read this book because it was recommended to me by a very good friend. Her judgement in books is (usually) on point, so I agreed to read it.

The Story…

This book is set in Virginia 1959 at the peak of the fight for civil rights. Sarah Dunbar has been picked to be part of a group of ten black students to be sent to Jefferson High School, a previously all-white institution. She is such a strong character and through it all, her, her sister Ruth and their friends stick together. Her and her peers are subjected to days of constant abuse from the white students and teachers (except the music teacher Mr. Lewis).

One of these white students is Linda Hairston, daughter of one of the town’s biggest segregationists. All her life she has been taught that the races should be kept separate and, until she meets Sarah, she almost believes this. When Linda and her best friend Judy are forced to work on a French project with Sarah, the reader begins to see the cracks and doubts Linda has about her and her father’s views. Over the course of the book, we see Linda drifting away from the segregationists and closer to Sarah. They fall in love and at the end of the book, they go off to college together for a fresh start.

What I liked…

I loved all the strong, beautiful and brave characters created in this book. All of them: the secondary characters like Chuck, Ennis, and Ruth; the main characters like Sarah, all of them. They really show great courage.                                                                                                                                                                          Ruth is Sarah’s 15 year old sister. She is treated as though she needs the most protection, but in reality, she shows some of the greatest spirit and resilience in the book. I love how this book really makes you feel and understand what it’s like to live with a mark, to be different, to be ashamed of who you really are, not just people from a different race but for LGBTQIA+ people too. I think if more people read and wrote books like this, books that give people this understanding, the world could be a much better place than it is now. The power and fire behind the messages of this book are morals that everyone should have to learn.

I also really liked seeing both Linda developing as character as well. At the start, she was not likeable at all. But as the book progresses, you see that in no way is this her fault. Growing up in a society like the one she lives in with an aggressive father who is the voice of the towns segregationists cannot be easy and by the end, her having such courage amid all the evil she’d been brought up to believe in was very honourable indeed.

What I disliked…

While I do like the development of the characters and completely support the friendship between Linda and Sarah, I do not see any reason for Sarah to have loved Linda. I completely understand why Linda could fall in love with the beautiful, strong character that Sarah is, but I don’t agree with how quickly those feelings are requited. I feel like their should’ve been much more time. I mean, by the end of the book they had only known each other for about 6 months, half of which were spent having arguments, debates or avoiding each other. In my opinion the friendship was already a huge step between the two girls and the relationship between them just came on too quickly.

Final thoughts…

I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction, equality, civil rights or just a very good read.

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I borrowed this books from the library for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!