Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Published on: February 12, 2013
Page Count: 336
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for participation in She Reads Book Club
She Reads February Book Club Selection: I am reviewing Calling Me Home today as part of the She Reads. Be sure to check out the She Reads site for more information about the book, Julie Kibler, giveaways, and reviews from other bloggers participating in the She Reads Blog Network.
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
1939: Isabelle McAllister is a young lady growing up in the small Kentucky town of Shalerville. She is the only daughter of the local doctor and her mother cares very much about the family’s appearance in society. Like all proper families of Shalerville, the McAllister family employs a black housekeeper and her daughter despite prominently displaying a sing that forbids negros from being in the town after dark. When the housekeeper’s son, Robert, comes to Isabelle’s rescue, a most forbidden love is born. Current day: Isabelle is elderly now and living in Arlington, TX. She lives alone and sees Dorrie, her hairdresser and ostensibly her only remaining friend. Dorrie is a black single mom who works hard to make ends meet. While they may not seem to have much in common, Dorrie enjoys Isabelle’s company more than anyone might expect. When Isabelle asks Dorrie to driver her to Cincinnati, OH so that she might attend a funeral, she agrees. She could see how much the trip would mean to Isabelle and she could use a little distance from some problems of her own. Over the course of the road trip, the two women help each other more than they could have imagined.
There is something about novels beginning with a bored young woman in search of excitement and adventure that immediately capture my attention. As a reader you know that trouble lies ahead, but when the character asks you to come along for the ride, there’s no way you can resist the invitation. This was true of Calling Me Home. I could very much relate to Isabelle’s brink of adulthood boredom. The world is out there calling and you aren’t satisfied living underneath your parent’s (and most especially your mother’s) watchful eyes. When you find yourself over your head and a young man steps in at that moment when you fully realize that you’re not invincible, he will make an impression. For this reason I found the beginnings of Isabelle and Robert’s relationship felt honest and organic. While I believe that there was more to the young couple’s feelings than that night in town, had Robert been one of the boys who attended those boring parent-sanctioned parties, I could easily see the attraction fizzling out over time. Robert wasn’t just a decent young man Isabelle could touch. A relationship with him was unthinkable to her mother. Following her heart toward Robert separated her completely from the mother who never understood her. Isabelle isn’t superficial enough to be swayed entirely by the ultimate act of rebellion, but the need to differentiate herself from her mother and the life she was expected to lead was always there. Unfortunately their desire to love each other regardless of social norms was dangerous on every level in 1939. Their own determination was simply not enough. My heart ached for them, wanting them to find happiness against all odds.
When novels have story lines in both the past and the present I more often than not find myself much less interested in what is happening in the here and now. That wasn’t the case with Calling Me Home. There was something about Dorrie that spoke to me. I was as interested in her past and her struggles as a single mom. With all that was on her plate, I appreciated her desire to help her elderly client. It isn’t any person who would agree on such short notice to take on a road trip between Texas to Ohio. I have to admit that her curiosity about Isabelle’s past was mine as well. Dorrie is human and kind. I had no trouble understanding what Isabelle saw in her and why she chose her as her traveling partner. Both women were lucky to have each other in their lives.
I absolutely loved Calling Me Home. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop. Julie Kibler wrote two stories that touched my heart. If I had any complaint about the book it would be that the situation with Dorrie’s son ended a little too neatly. Even then, I appreciated how Dorrie handled her homecoming. If you are looking for a heartwarming read, I couldn’t recommend Julie Kibler’s novel more. While there can be so much ugliness in this world, a reminder of the power of individuals is so welcome. Calling Me Home is another She Reads Book Club winner.