Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: Calling Me Home

By Amy Bromberg

While reading Calling Me Home, I tweeted several times that never in a million years would I think this was a debut. If someone handed me this book with no hint to what was inside (no cover picture, no synopsis, etc.), I would definitely think that Julie Kibler must have written a few previous novels.

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. (Synopsis courtesy of

Calling Me Home is two stories rolled into one. The first, which takes place in the late 1930s/early 40s is about Isabelle and Robert who fall in love, but due to Robert being African American, it was forbidden (against the law at the time) for them to be together. The second story is about Isabelle and Dorrie, in present day, who form a stronger relationship than they already have, during a road trip from Texas to Ohio.

I’ve read some books which alternate between the past and present, that have confused me. Unfortunately, this has led me to go back and read a couple of chapters over again. You definitely won’t find that with this novel. Julie does an excellent job in smoothly alternating between both time periods.

Right from the beginning, Julie’s writing grabbed me into the heart and soul of the book. I wanted to keep “soaking up” and devouring the secrets in Dorrie and Isabelle’s past. Julie portrays both of these women with such vitality and beauty. Dorrie and Isabelle stayed with me well after I put down the book, and of course while writing this review, it’s like I’m sitting at my kitchen table having a cup of coffee and listening to their tales again. The bond between Dorrie and Isabelle is a wonderful example of the importance of women’s friendships.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s an extremely powerful, gripping and emotional story. It’s one about family, friendship, race relations and love...the one thing that binds us all together. This will make one fabulous book club pick. Definitely looking forward to Julie Kibler’s next novel.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree - one of the best books I have read in a long time. (I am so proud to say Julie is my cousin).

Ann Ellison