Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
ISBN: 9781250014528 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250014535 (ebook)
ASIN: B008RVAP2C (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: February 12, 2013
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.
Dorrie Curtis is a divorced, single-mom, small-business owner and a strong, Black woman. She’s dealt with a lot of disappointment in her life but is striving to be better and do better, so that she can provide for her family. She’s also struggling with her “relationship” with Teague, as she’s never dealt with a strong, reliable, responsible and loving man before. Over the past ten years she’s built a relationship that has gone way beyond hairdresser and customer with Ms. Isabelle. When Ms. Isabelle asks her to take time away from her business and family to drive her to Ohio for a funeral, Dorrie briefly hesitates but realizes this is no small request and agrees.
Isabelle McAllister is an elderly widow and the epitome of a strong White woman. She was raised in Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s with a different mentality and approach toward minorities. Unfortunately she didn’t share those opinions. One of her childhood friends was Nell, the daughter of their family’s housekeeper/cook, Cora Prewitt. As a teenager, Nell became the family’s maid and the continuing friendship was frowned upon. And if a friendship with the maid was frowned upon, then a friendship with the maid’s brother Robert was downright dangerous. Yet Isabelle throws caution to the wind and discovers she has more in common with Robert than with any of the boys her parents consider eligible beaus. In a time when a Black man could be lynched just for looking at a White woman the wrong way, allowing a friendship to develop into a romance was potentially lethal, at least for Robert. Robert and Isabelle runaway from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio where it is legal for a Black man and White woman to marry and they do just that . . . marry. Their happiness as a married couple is short-lived as Isabelle’s father and brothers track them down and force Isabelle to return to Kentucky. Her marriage is annulled as she’s underage and she is literally made a prisoner by her family. After her confinement, she once again runs away, eventually meets another man, remarries and has a family. But she’s never able to leave behind the memories of her first love, her first marriage, and the impact it had on her and the entire Prewitt family
Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle have stories that are told in alternating chapters. Not only do the chapters alternate between Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle, but they alternate between past and present. Ms. Isabelle reveals her past during the long drive between Texas and Ohio and oh what a past. Calling Me Home is more than a story about prejudice and race relations, it is a story about hope and love. Ms. Isabelle had a great love with Robert Prewitt even though it was at a time when society frowned upon a White woman marrying a Black man. Over the years Ms. Isabelle had been forced to give up so much, but she’s realizing that she also has much with her friendship with Dorrie. Dorrie is also realizing that although her life has been rough and she’s had to deal with more in-your-face racism and prejudice that she’s not dealt with anything as harshly as Ms. Isabelle’s life. These women unexpectedly become not only friends but family with Ms. Isabelle considering Dorrie the equivalent of a daughter or granddaughter and Dorrie considering Ms. Isabelle the mother or grandmother she’s always wanted but never had. Ms. Kibler has created characters that touch the heart, trite but true. One can only feel empathy toward Isabelle as a young woman struggling against society and her family and hoping that love will conquer all. It isn’t possible to read about Dorrie and her son’s dilemma and not see that it reflects Ms. Isabelle’s life story. Both Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle initially come across as somewhat cantankerous women, but that’s only a shield they both use to protect themselves. The drama and sorrow of this story seem to culminate with the funeral in Ohio. It is a huge surprise and one that seems to present some resolution to past hurts. I loved reading Calling Me Home so much that I’ve read it twice now in the past two months. You may ignore any other recommendation I give but don’t ignore this one: read this book!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and BookBrowse. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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