Sunday, March 17, 2013

REVIEW: "CALLING ME HOME" - by Julie Kibler

Title: “Calling Me Home
Author: Julie Kibler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley
My star rating: 5/5


Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It's a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle's guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.

Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son's irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.

Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family's housekeeper--in a town where blacks weren't allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle's first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way.


I can’t recall where I read it, but someone compared this book to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. That comparison is what got me interested in reading Calling Me Home. That, and of course the picture on the cover that already spoke a thousand words to me. At first, other than the time in which the story plays out of a young Isabelle falling in love with her soulmate who – according to her family and the laws of that time – is the wrong color, I couldn’t see how this book could be compared to the magnificence of The Help. By the time I finished Calling Me Home, bawling my eyes out while ploughing through the last ten chapters, I knew exactly why this book is reminiscent of Kathryn Stockett’s masterpiece. Folks, I’m begging you to read this book. Even if you think this might not be your cup of tea, I can promise you, you’ll leave a piece of your heart behind in this sensitively written, exquisite novel by a debut author whose writing will move you and leave you breathlessly in awe.

It took me a few weeks to finish this novel. This is not a book you read in one sitting. It takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and attempting to finish it in one go might leave you feeling emotionally drained. There’s only so much the heart can take. I kept rereading certain paragraphs and sentences, amazed at how well the author understands and translates the deepest love and pain a person can possibly feel. I lingered on passages with deeper meanings and ones with comparisons to my own life; chapters which made me question my views and opinions and had me asking myself what I would’ve done in both Isabelle and Dorrie’s situations. This is a story that forces you to think! And that, people, is why it took me weeks to finish this book. You don’t simply read it; you live it. You backtrack – pages, paragraphs, sentences – just so to experience those same emotions all over again. Why? Because you think it won’t hit you as hard again as it did reading it the first time. But it does.

I can’t really say anything more (without giving spoilers) than what the blurb already summarised. I won’t be surprised at all if this story is made into a movie someday. Isabelle, Dorrie, Robert and Nell crawled so deep into my heart they became a part of me. I can hardly believe this is the author’s first book. Her characters connected with me on so many levels. I laughed in some places, I nodded my head in agreement with the life lessons Dorrie learned through Isabelle’s experiences, and most of all, it gave me the courage to stand my ground when faced with adversity. Isabelle and Robert’s story might be a tale of love across racial barriers, but Calling Me Home is so much more than simply a love story. The brutal honesty in the telling of events from Isabelle as a young, naïve girl to Isabelle as a much wiser eighty-nine-year-old woman, who still has to deal with the same intolerances today as she had to in the late 1930s, is only one of the many layers of this superb read that renders the reader completely at the author’s mercy. The atrocities, discrimination, prejudice and blatant disregard for human lives, love in all its different forms, loss, hope, friendship, forgiveness and moving on; only some of the elements which forms part of this multi-faceted story, are what kept me rooted to my seat and slowly savoring each page.

Calling Me Home is a tearjerker with a surprising and unpredictable ending. Although I cried my way through a large part of the story – especially the ending – this is one of the few stories that had such an emotional impact on me, it changed my life. For me this was a journey on a personal level which I took whilst in the shoes of Dorrie and Isabelle, and as a mother, a friend, and someone who knows what it’s like to love someone so completely they become your every breath, I commend the author on her honesty, her fearlessness, and her wisdom in creating extraordinary characters who spoke directly to me and who became my memorable companions on an emotional journey of courage, discovery, acceptance and perseverance. This is a definite must-read for the reader who, like me, wears her heart on her sleeve.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler has 146 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



Julie Kibler began writing Calling Me Home after learning a bit of family lore: as a young woman, her grandmother fell in love with a young black man in an era and locale that made the relationship impossible. When not writing, she enjoys travel, independent films, music, photography, and corralling her teenagers and rescue dogs. She lives in Texas. Calling Me Home is her debut.


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