Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Published in 2013
Book 5 in my January Kindle Challenge
Sixteen-year-old Isabelle McAllister, born into wealth and privilege, finds her ordered life turned upside down when she becomes attracted to Robert, the ambitious black son of her family’s housekeeper. Before long Isabelle and Robert are crossing extraordinary, dangerous boundaries and falling deeply in love.
Many years later, eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle will travel from her home in Arlington, Texas, to Ohio for a funeral. With Isabelle is her hairstylist and friend, Dorrie Curtis – a black single mother with her own problems. Along the way, Isabelle will finally reveal to Dorrie the truth of her painful past: a tale of forbidden love, the consequences of which will resound for decades . . .
The premise of this book is very simple. Hairdresser Dorrie is driving an elderly customer, Isabelle, to a funeral. We don’t know whose funeral it is – and don’t find out until the very end of the novel – but over the course of the long journey, Isabelle tells Dorrie about her past…
I was utterly gripped by this book, and liked pretty much everything about it. I think the structure, alternating between past and present, worked well, and although I was more interested in Isabelle’s story than Dorrie’s present day narrative, I think the contrasts and parallels between the two stories were interesting and did flesh out the novel. The alternating chapters and voices weren’t at all confusing, partly because the book was written in a simple and uncomplicated way, but also because the two narrators had distinctive voices and personalities.
I really liked Isabelle, who was a real no-nonsense character, and finding out her back story really brought her to life. Also the minor characters in the book were believable and had unique characteristics; I feel the author did a good job of bringing all her characters to life, even the less important ones.
This isn’t a ground-breaking book – I have read other novels with similar plots and ideas – and there were no huge shocks or twists (I had guessed whose funeral the two were travelling to early on), but the novel was so well written and the characters were so endearing that I really fell in love with it. It was a novel I couldn’t put down, and I was longing for my tube journey in the morning not to finish so I could carry on reading! I found the relationship between Isabelle and Robert to be touching and convincing, even though you know they are doomed given the prejudices of the time and the environment they were living in. There were also small details in the book that didn’t necessarily add much to the plot, but still stuck with me –such as the small photo of a nameless black family that Isabelle keeps with her as a reminder of Robert.
All the loose ends are tied up very well at the end of the novel, and you should have tissues handy – and I am not one to cry easily at books I’m reading!
Obviously I loved this book and would highly recommend it!