Rating: 5 / 5
Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle has been going to her hairdresser, Dorrie, for years. They’ve struck up an odd kinship, not exactly friends, but familiar and comfortable with each other. One day, Isabelle asks Dorrie, a single mother, to drive her to Cincinnati to attend a funeral. Although an explanation is not given, Dorrie feels compelled to grant Isabelle’s request, and besides, Dorrie has a few problems with her own life that she’d like to temporarily push aside. The drive from Texas to Ohio takes a few days, and along the way, Isabelle recounts her life, and the secrets she’s kept hidden for decades, leading up the funeral.
Isabelle’s life has been full of heartache. At an early age, she fell in love with Robert Prewitt, the son of her family’s housekeeper. But in the 30s, the racial divide was in full effect. In many states, interracial marriages were illegal, and black men dating white women were often times beaten or threatened, and sometimes even killed. As the daughter of a respected physician in Shalerville, the relationship between Isabelle and Robert never had a chance.
The book is structured to alternate between Isabelle’s past, and Dorrie’s current situation with her son and new relationship with Teague. Both are equally interesting, but the current situation with Dorrie, and the road trip are really just a mechanism for Isabelle to tell her story. It works very well though, for both Isabelle and Dorrie complement each other.
Calling Me Home is gut wrenching and heartbreaking. As someone in an interracial relationship, I am forever thankful that I did not grow up in times of racial turmoil like Isabelle and Robert. However, those times were not so long ago, and as Kibler noted in the present day plotline between Isabelle and Dorrie, there are still places in this country where racial equality does not exist. The themes of family, love, relationships, societal norms, friendship, race, and prejudice are prevalent and make this a great book club selection.
Should I judge a book by its cover? Absolutely not. But do I? Absolutely. The cover of Calling Me Home is beautiful, and just by looking at it, you already know what the story entails. It is gorgeous and moving. Calling Me Home was so incredibly moving and compelling. There were a few surprises at the end, which I was not expecting, and blew me away. Calling Me Home is simply one of the best books I’ve read this year and I cannot recommend it enough; Julie Kibler did a phenomenal job with her debut novel and I eagerly await whatever she publishes next.