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4.1 out of 5 stars
Calling Home
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book in a grocery store on my lunch break, just needing something to pass the time. I did not expect much from this story, but upon cracking the spine, I almost immediately dove into the story- finding myself fifteen minutes late back from lunch because I just couldn't put the book down. I then found myself stealing away five minutes here and there, and when I got home, I finished the story in one remaining sitting. It was not a "grab you by the seat of your pants" kind of story, but it was one that you did not want to stop journeying along with.
Both main characters, the mom and the 14 year old daughter, are struggling women trying to get over the loss of their husband/father when he walks out of their lives to live DOWN THE ROAD with a new beautician. Though one would expect the author to center the story around the bitter anger toward the cheating husband, Janna McMahan weaves together a beautiful story, like poetry, and pulls in strong co-staring characters. The daugher's first boyfriend, whom I personally fell in love with; the southern- gossipy type neighbors; the new romantic interests in the mother's life; and yes, even the husband gets a part in the story and I don't hate him as much.
This was a wonferful story and I definitely cried at the end with bittersweet tears- and I'll admit I was ANGRY at the daughter for her decision!!! But was well worth the trip to the grocery store, as well as the angry words spewing from my boss' mouth that one day.
Great read- very much enjoyed.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
What a wonderful novel !!! This book is so real and captivating I stayed up all night reading it. Janna McMahan's very real account of Shannon's struggle to become an adult made me feel a variety of emotions for her. Pain, sadness, frustration and finally, hope. This story is so real and compelling it has happened or could have happened to any woman anywhere in America. It's wonderfully written. Don't miss it !!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
McMahan has beautifully developed her characters in this special novel. Telling the story alternating from the perspective of different characters gives a depth of insight into her characters. Her descriptions of Kentucky and tobacco farming are beautiful and real. Calling Home is a story of survival from the perspective of personal challenges to that of the family farm in America to that of a community following a major natural disaster. McMahan weaves it all together in a heart-wrenching tale that you can't put down. I look forward to more work from this fine writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I live in Kentucky and love to read books set close to home or at least in the south. This book caught my attention because it was a double whammy, rural Kentucky and during the time I was in high school. While at first I was caught up in the description of the countryside and schools to see how authentic the author was in her writing, I found myself absorbed in a story that made me forget where it was set. This story could happen in any rural southern community.

Virginia and her family have an awakening of lifes struggles and the author weaves their troubles into a compelling tale of hardship and resolution.

You learn why some secrets should be shared and why communication between those you love is so important.

Upon finishinig this book, I couldn' wait to read the author's next one. She is a new talent that I can't wait to explore.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
An absorbing read, McMahan has written a novel that explores how life itself can confront ordinary human beings with powerful dilemas. With its rich characters, it makes it a powerful read. She knows just where she wants to take us, making it a book I couldn't let go.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
The opening chapter of "Calling Home" is a grabber. Right from the start, Virginia Lemmons shows us what she's made of. Like the lone Wild West scout in the desert, she confronts the reality of the gangrenous wound threatening to kill her and lances it despite fear of the pain.

Wondering how the events of the book will affect this central character kept me turning the pages of this complex narrative of a family in central Kentucky during the 1970s. The other characters -- her children, her cheating husband, her vaguely involved boyfriend -- seem to bounce off Virginia's tough, resilient hide as she bears up, holding things together through a series of some of life's hardest blows.

Shannon, Virginia's teenaged daughter, seems oblivious to the pain swirling through her family. The reality of it, however, lurks in her peripheral vision, muffling joy as well as pain and limiting her ability to read potential danger. In her concentration on daily events and the framework of her teenage life - grades, boy friends, girl friends - Shannon seems her mother's daughter. All in all, this young woman seems a true representation of a good girl trying to survive a dysfunctional upbringing.

As other reviewers have stated, "Calling Home" demonstrates the author's considerable skill at exposition. Some of the sections on processes - curing tobacco, taxidermy, etc. - could be the beginnings of how-to manuals, so thorough are they. In contrast, her descriptions of tragic events seem somewhat detached, perhaps deliberately echoing her characters' self-protection mechanisms.

The resolution of the bad season of the Lemmons family is the most satisfying part of the book. Virginia finally realizes that what she thought was weakness may be not only her greatest strength but the only way to begin the healing the family so desperately needs. The freedom she finds by at last giving herself permission to feel brings the whole family into a place of new peace and hope. At the end, we leave the Lemmons family expecting that they will survive, maybe even triumph.

I gave "Calling Home" four stars instead of five because I would have liked the first part of the book and the last to be more equal in length and because of McMahan's tendency to embed otherwise excellent prose.

The strength of "Calling Home" is in the personalities McMahan has created. Very real ordinary people, stilted by their culture, repressed by trauma, and devastated by loss, struggle to survive and find a new way to live. The Lemmons family is very easy to root for. This is a book about a family that you won't soon forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This was a nice, easy read. It got a bit depressing after all sorts of bad things happened to the main character, but of course it all works out in the end. I enjoyed the read.
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on February 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
For anyone who lived the 70's, there are many fun details McMahan sprinkles throughout this book to vividly evoke related memories. For anyone at all, her descriptions pull you in and take you there. In all her short stories or novels I have read I love visiting places that feel tangible, and meeting characters that feel real as well. The characters immediately become people you know, and the degree of realism can be uncomfortable at times, as you don't just meet them in public, but you follow them home to an empty house.They are well rounded with flaws intact, but mostly good people, true to life, so that you can feel with them and for them. And you do. The story carries you through the turmoils and trials of the struggle of their lives, noticing the unexpected touching moments along the way. You see their world three-dimensionally... from more than one point of view. McMahan's writing intrigues the reader. So you read on, engrossed in the intertwined plots, led by a thread of heart-felt humanity that ties it all together and provides hope.
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on October 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
This novel is set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so the time period was very interesting to me. The author captured so many of the little details of the time, the fashion and the music, which made it fun for me to read. I became very involved with the characters. The author makes it easy to root for these flawed people. The story was very appropriate for the time--women struggling to find their place in society and trying to figure out the new rights they have. I liked the plot. It moved fast and I was entertained. I'd recommend this book.
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on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
McMahan's novel Calling Home is a great read; it seems so real while you follow Shannon and Virginia through their compelling story. Being a woman and from Kentucky, I feel like I can relate to both sides of the story, for various reasons, and McMahan's writing is one of many things that make this possible. Her illustrations of Kentucky take me back there, as if to let me live their lives along side them as I read this compelling story. I definitely recommend this be added to your book list!
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