04 February 2013

Review: Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

When ninety-something Miss Isabelle gets a phone call to return to her hometown area to attend a funeral, she asks her friend Dorrie to drive her from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area to Cincinnati. Dorrie is the closest thing the older woman has to family, never mind that Dorrie is also her hairdresser.

Although the two women feel close, once in the car, they realize they don't really know all that much about each other. Over the course of the long drive they share their stories. But it's Isabelle's tale and the revelation of who died that forms the core of Julie Kibler's debut novel, Calling Me Home.

In the 1930s, northern Kentucky was still very much segregated, and the town of Shalerville was particularly strict in keeping black and white apart. Young Isabelle McAllister considered the housekeeper she grew up with to be part of the family, but clearly her mother had different ideas. When she finds herself falling in love with the housekeeper's son, Robert, the headstrong teenager doesn't foresee the chain of events she sets off.

The novel is told in alternating chapters from Dorrie's and Isabelle's viewpoints, with Dorrie focusing on the present, and Isabelle talking about the past. Their lives have been very different, yet they both have had to deal with racial prejudices and heartbreak that neither finds easy to vocalize. By the time their road trip has ended, the two women have learned from each other, gaining a fresh perspective.

Julie Kibler's strongest talent is creating believable characters that readers almost immediately identify with. Isabelle is willful and knows her own mind, and I liked seeing how those traits were different in the elderly Isabelle from the way they were manifest in her teenage years. Breaking racial barriers was never easy, but for Isabelle and Robert, it seemed almost impossible. The feelings of both their families, the sociocultural consequences, and how their relationship shaped their futures seemed true to the late 1930s and early 1940s. My heart went out to them and their inevitable troubles.

I also liked Dorrie, but I found it a little harder to connect to her, although I'm closer to her age than to Isabelle's. I think perhaps that's because I always have trouble with characters in their 30s who can't seem to recognize a good relationship when it hits them over the head. That, however, is just me, and I know other, perhaps younger, readers will be strongly drawn to Dorrie's plight.

Calling Me Home was chosen as the She Reads book club selection for February. This was a wise pick because there's quite a bit to discuss, and I predict that readers of different ages will react in different ways, which always makes for good conversation. Some of the major discussion points are racism in the past and present, women's rights, how the institution of marriage has changed over the years, the strength (or not) of families, and parenting styles and how they affect the lives of their children.

To see what other She Reads Book Club members thought of the book, to enter a great giveaway, and to join the conversation, visit the She Reads website.

Buy Calling Me Home at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Macmillan / St. Martin's Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781250014528
Rating: B

Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

12 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 2/4/13, 7:27 AM  

There are so many books now with the back and forth in time thing going on! I think it's a very hard trope to pull off!

bermudaonion 2/4/13, 7:42 AM  

I skimmed your review since I just started this last night. So far, I'm intrigrued.

Daryl 2/4/13, 8:41 AM  

sounds like a good read ..

Literate Housewife 2/4/13, 11:22 AM  

I see what you mean about Dorrie's ambivalence over men. I hadn't given that much thought, but you're right.

Like you said, this book will provide so much to discuss. It's perfect for a book club or for your friends to read together.

BookBagLady 2/4/13, 11:26 AM  

I absolutely agree with you that people of different ages will have different reactions to the book. And, that there is lots to discuss with this particular novel. Excellent review, by the way!

Cheers,
Louise
(Book BagLady)

Zibilee 2/4/13, 1:22 PM  

This does sound rather interesting, and intriguing book, and one that seems to raise a lot of moral and ethical topics. I am glad that you enjoyed it, and am thinking about reading it now that you've given it your stamp of approval. Very well developed and thoughtful review today. I loved it!

Sandy Nawrot 2/4/13, 1:49 PM  

I so loved this book, and I honestly went into it in a big rush and not expecting anything. It completely charmed me and touched me. My review will be up tomorrow!

Julie 2/4/13, 2:13 PM  

I liked that Dorrie was apprehensive about Teague. She wasn't single anymore and had to think about her kids as well. Plus she had been burned a few times before, it makes you a little less ready to jump and think later.

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) 2/4/13, 2:23 PM  

I totally agree eith you about Kibler's way with characters. She reeled me in right away! This was an excellent book club pick! My review went up today too.

Jaime Boler 2/4/13, 7:05 PM  

A fabulous review, Beth! You make a good point about how different people will connect with either Isabelle or Dorrie based on different factors. This one is my favorite She Reads read thus far.

Julie P. 2/5/13, 2:54 PM  

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. It is an ideal book club discussion selection!

Heather @ Book Addiction 2/10/13, 4:52 PM  

I REALLY liked this one. But I agree with you about having more difficulty connecting to Dorrie than Isabelle, although I'm not sure why.

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