15793184Reviewed by Krista Castner

Calling Me Home is one of those books that you want to hurry up and read because the story is so engrossing, but then you don’t want it to end because the story is so powerful. The tension between the two main story lines builds throughout and foreshadowing hints of secrets untold. This is an amazing book; made all the more amazing because it is Julie Kibler’s debut novel. I give it an unequivocal 5 star rating.

When ninety-year-old Isabelle McAllister asks her hairdresser, Dorrie Curtis to drive her the thousand miles from Texas to Cincinnati to attend a funeral taking place in two days, Dorrie agrees. She agrees in part because she needs some time away from her family to assess her new relationship with the too-good-to-be-true Teague; and in part because Isabelle has almost become part of her family as their relationship has deepened over the years. It doesn’t matter that Isabelle is white and Dorrie is black. In many ways their relationship is better than the strained one that Dorrie has with her own mother.

The story alternates between present day Texas, delving into Dorrie’s life; and 1939 era Kentucky; unveiling Isabelle’s early years. Isabelle grew up in the little town of Shalerville where racism ran deep. Signs were even posted at the city limits stating that African Americans had to be out of town before dark. Despite that, seventeen-year-old Isabelle falls in love with Robert Prewitt, the black son of her family’s housekeeper. From then on all sorts of problems ensue. Isabelle’s father is the big-hearted but spineless town doctor. Her mother is narrow-minded and runs the house with a velvet gloved iron fist. Her two older brothers are violent bullies that her father has no control over. But Isabelle is strong-willed and determined. She and Robert are courageous in their fight to carve out a life together. The odds are clearly not in their favor but you can’t stop rooting for the pair.

This book is so good on so many levels. It’s a road trip story. It’s a love story. It’s a race relations study. It’s a family interactions story that spurs you think about what really makes a family. It has suspense and surprises. By the end of the book I had cried more than once. This book has a huge heart! “Well done”, Julie Kibler. I can’t wait to read what you write next. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.