‘The Kindest Lie’ Is A Tender Meditation On Family

Without diving into sentimentality, debut author Nancy Johnson examines the bonds that bring people together — and the lies that threaten to tear them apart

The Newborn Baby, 1675, Matthijs Naiveu. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

You worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist. How did your work as a journalist impact the writing of this novel?

I love that descriptions of cooking, food, and meals abound in The Kindest Lie. The story begins at a dinner party, where characters drink martinis and eat Chicago’s best barbecue; characters in other scenes eat dark chocolate truffles, honey baked ham, blackberry preserves, fried chicken, and spaghetti with marinara sauce. Food even makes appearances when the character isn’t eating; for example, in one scene, a character is jumped while “the smell of grilled meat wafted from somebody’s cookout nearby.” What role do you see food and cooking playing in the story?

Although it begins and ends in Chicago, the bulk of the narrative takes place in Ganton, Indiana — a small town that’s economically struggled in recent years. Could you talk about the inspiration behind Ganton, Indiana? How did you go about crafting such a lived-in setting?

What’s a breakfast dish that reminds you of home (whatever “home” means to you)?

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.

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