84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler's debut novel, is guaranteed to be a hit with book clubs. Alternating between the present day and the late 1930's, Dorrie and Miss Isabelle also alternate narrating this book.
Present day: Dorrie and Miss Isabelle embark on a car trip together. Dorrie is driving Miss Isabelle to a funeral. The two seem an odd pair at first - one black, one white, and generations apart in age. But, Dorrie has been doing Miss Isabelle's hair for quite a while and Miss Isabelle treats her as though she were her own daughter. Dorrie is trying out a new relationship, not sure how much she can trust this new man. She is also upset with her son, Stevie, Jr., who has made some bad decisions lately.
Miss Isabelle opens up and begins to tell her story as the two make this journey.
1939: Miss Isabelle is just a teenager who falls in love with their maid's son, Robert. An interracial couple isn't approved of in many places, especially in Isabelle's hometown. Although the two are committed to each other, there are many things conspiring against them. As Miss Isabelle shares her story it is easy to see what a remarkable relationship she and Robert shared, yet Dorrie knows from seeing the pictures in Isabelle's house that everyone in Isabelle's life is white. What happened to Robert and the love they shared?
Although not marked as a romance, I would classify it as having a bit of romance in this story. I couldn't help but get my hopes up that true love would prevail.
Book clubs will find plenty to discuss in Kibler's story- relationships, racism, the norms of the time this story took place, and friendship are just a few of the topics I can't wait to discuss with other readers.
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2013
This review can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm ([...])
Note: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and St Martin's Press for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Thoughts: I read this book a couple of weeks ago while I was vacationing in Florida and I have to tell you -- this was a very hard book to put down. It's heart-warming story of forbidden love and an unlikely friendship that has great main characters and an emotional ending that ensures that this book will stay with me for a long time.
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was Ms Kibler's debut novel. Not every author is able to write a story that flows back and forth between two different eras without a few bumps in the storyline but Ms Kibler does so fluently and flawlessly. It's interesting to note that Ms Kibler got the idea to write this book after she discovered that her grandmother had fallen in love with a black man in her youth. At that time the hope of having an interracial relationship was almost infeasible and that is how this story was born.
But it's the relationship and bond between thirty-something Dorrie, a black single mother of two, and eighty-nine year old Isabelle, an elderly white woman in Texas, that made these two characters stand out for me. They are sadly, even in modern times, viewed as an unlikely pair which causes some small minded people to look at them with suspicion.
It's through Dorrie and Isabelle's narratives, which were so engaging, that the story really comes to life. Isabelle's flashbacks to the 1930's and 1940's helps the reader to gain more insight into what life was like back then for both Whites and Blacks in Kentucky and how even though Blacks had rights they still were far from being treated as equals or even respectfully by their white peers.
I'd love to think that we've come a very long way from racial discrimination but after reading about how people responded to Isabelle and Dorrie in a local restaurant it made me wonder and made me, quite frankly, sad that we may have not come as far as we think we have. Personally, I felt that Dorrie and Isabelle's friendship was believable, they had a deep connection and it never felt forced for the sake of making a good read. It's authentic and I felt their connection strongly.
I also enjoyed seeing Isabelle at different ages (as a spunky, opinionated 89 year old as well as a teenage girl and young woman) and seeing what happened in her life to make her into the 89 year old woman we first meet. Sometimes it's good to remind ourselves (as I do/did with my own grandparents) that the older generation has not always been old. That they had a long life before their hair turned grey and if we just listen we could learn a thing or two from their experience. This is one of the things about this book that I loved. How Isabelle's life story was the catalyst to help Dorrie deal with and come to terms with the issues she was facing in her life. A passing down of knowledge from one generation to the next.
But I digress ...
Now let's talk about the ending (without divulging any info), shall we? I loved it. It shocked me so much that I had to read it THREE times because I just couldn't believe how wonderfully the author sprung this truth on me. I actually sucked in my breath, whispered "No!" and proceeded to get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. A wonderful ending to a great book.
Calling Me Home is a beautiful story that successfully deals with many topics. It's a historical fiction read that deals with interracial marriage, civil rights, parenting and women's rights. But mostly it's about forbidden love and a friendship that, sadly, society still doesn't whole-heartedly support.
It's a story about the importance of handing down wisdom from older generations to the new.
It's a story that focuses on what ties people together instead of the differences (race, gender, generation) we allow to push us apart.
I highly recommend this book.
My Rating:4.5/5 stars
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Warning - this book will be hard to put down! It's a crossover between literary fiction and suspense, with some history included. The characters are three-dimensional; they have failing and flaws as well a a heroic nature that comes through.
As the book jacket says, the story begins when Isabelle, an 89-year-old woman in Texas, asks her hairdresser to join her on a journey. Of course the hairdresser is also a good friend from over the years; she comes to Isabelle's home and helps her out like a daughter.
The story is told in alternating voices; Isabelle's first person memories of her childhood and teen years alternate with Dorrie's story of the drive in the present. Isabelle's story holds a strong emotional charge, because black and white communities were separate, 75 years after the Civil War. Isabelle's town didn't allow African-Americans to live within its borders and enforced a strong curfew.
At the same time, Dorrie's story shows that we're not 100% there; in one scene, a hotel clerk wonders why these two women are together.
So what's not to like? The book is a good read and I suspect book clubs will choose Calling Me Home as a selection. My only concern is that the material seemed so familiar there were few surprises.
Still, the book is better written than most; the pace is good; the characters are appealing (probably more to women than men) and if you're looking for a way to pass a snowy afternoon, this book works.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2013
I was anxious to read this book because of all the glowing Amazon reviews. I was somewhat disappointed however. The writing is competent, the theme of racial equality vs. intolerance is important, the World War II setting is enticing but the underlying `romance' novel quality of the book isn't something I enjoy.
The action swings between the present and the past, specifically 1939 and the early 1940's. Central to the book is a friendship between an almost 90 year old white woman and a 40 something African American woman. They meet when cantankerous Isabelle parks herself at Dorrie's hairdressing station one fateful afternoon. A relationship that starts out rocky soon becomes one of true friendship and respect. This relationship is the best part of this book. An internal alarm went off for me however, because it seems like a lot of books are being written lately by white authors about racial issues. I'm not a purist. ANY author has the right to tackle any theme and is only limited by their imagination and their skills of observation. That's fair. Why though, when it comes to race, are all the problems talked about as if they were in the past? Then bad, now good. And of course things have improved vastly but why not talk about now? The historical perspective silently implies all the bad stuff was then. To be fair Kibler does a great job a showing the racial impact on these two women's current friendship. She shows the good and the bad and the stereotypes which with we still wrestle.
Having said all this I was very emotionally invested in "Calling me Home". It was absorbing. It deals with important themes. It's a love story. If you like the romance genre and have enough tissues you'll most likely enjoy this book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
In Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler's debut novel, Isabelle, a ninety year old woman, asks Dorrie her long-time hair dresser and close friend to drive her from their homes in Texas to a funeral in Cincinnati. Along the way, Isabelle will share her story of love and loss as a young woman and Dorrie will deal with her family issues at home via cell phone. As Isabelle finds absolution, Dorrie finds the strength to face her own trials and chance at love.
Initially, I found the novel hard to get into. I thought the narrative style of writing seemed too simple and the characters bland. The story seemed predictable. However, it didn't take too many chapters before I was completely and emotionally invested in Isabelle's story of falling in love with a black man and my opinion changed. The characters became fully fleshed out--flawed yet richly human in their emotions and choices. While much of the plot is, of course, foreseeable--we all know how a romance between a white woman and a black man in 1939 Kentucky is going to turn out--Kibler throws in surprises now and then that kept me hoping and rooting for the young couple.
By the end of the novel, I was emotionally invested in the lives of both Isabelle and Dorrie. The novel excels at pricking those historical nerves we want to forget and yet reminds us that there is still so much room to improve in regards to racial relations.
Kibler is a fantastic story-teller and is ultimately impressive with her debut work.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
I read CALLING ME HOME and was whisked into the lives and then the car with Isabel and Dorrie right away as they drove to Texas to Cincinnati. Their distinct voices kept me grounded in the story so that I could get lost in their present and past journeys. Each character has her own distinct storyline and the way they come together throughout is very believable.
Julie Kibler's writing seems effortless, which means it is meticulous. I cried so hard at times I couldn't catch my breath. Always the mark of a good book. I think the world is in for a real treat with Calling Me Home and Julie Kibler as a bright new author.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
What a debut!! A beautifully written novel about the friendship between two women that transcends both the color and the age barriers...Dorrie is a single mom of two children, barely able to make ends meet. But she is doing what she has always dreamed of doing, and she is doing it on her terms. Dorrie has always wanted to be a hair stylist, and owning her own shop is like a dream come true. She has been doing Miss Isabelle's hair for over a decade...and although they got off to a rocky start, the two quickly became friends. When Isabelle approaches Dorrie about doing her a "favor"---and the favor is accompanying her on a thousand mile road trip to take care of some mysterious family business--Dorrie is taken aback, but how can she refuse? Although surprise that Isabelle would ask HER, Dorrie agrees to go. She closes her shop, makes arrangements for her children, and the two of them set off on their adventure. Along the way, Isabelle shares stories of her growing up and young adulthood....and Dorrie is shocked by the revelations. But nothing surprises Dorrie more than what awaits them at the end of their journey.....
A riveting tale of love, hate and friendship, readers will become absorbed in this beautiful story. Just when I thought I couldn't be surprised again, the twist at the end gave a suitable ending to an engaging tale. Loved it!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"...Some men are just plain bad news. Then there are good men. They'll do. Then there are good men you love. If you find one of the last kind, you'd better hang on to him with everything you have." And so goes this lovely story, told in unique format, moving back and forth between l939-1940 and the present, as Dorrie, a black hairdresser, mother of two, reluctant to commit to what just might be "a good man she could love," and Miss Isabelle, a ninety-year-old white woman who has formed a close bond with Dorrie over many years, a patron of Dorrie's hair salon, the one Isabelle turns to for the road trip the two women take as Miss Isabelle, over a thousand mile journey, returns to her "roots," so to speak, revealing along the way a story that will pull you in as secrets and sadnesses and, yes, courage, are revealed. It's a fascinating look at class and race, and "how things worked" years back, perhaps, in certain areas of the country, not so different today, unfortunately. If you're looking to immerse yourself in a story that will touch your heart, "Calling Me Home" will not disappoint. If you enjoy spending time coming to know characters who will remain with you long after the book is finished, Julie Kibler's debut novel will not disappoint.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2015
One of my bookish resolutions for the year was to start reading more books that weren’t just pure romance and seeing a couple of friends who loved this particular book motivated me to finally pick it up. Without a doubt, this is a book that will be on my best books read in 2015 list. The content and sensitive topics explored were extremely thought-provoking, the heartbreaking forbidden romance both shattered my heart and mended it, and the historical backdrop of the book made the story feel so real, like I was transported in the world the author created and was a silent bystander who experienced everything the characters did. This was one of the hardest books for me to read, not because I didn’t enjoy it or wasn’t invested, but because of how powerful the author’s words are. They leaped off the pages and seeped deep into my heart, crippling me with the stark truth behind the ugly reality presented in the story. And even though all of this is fictional, the impression left afterwards is sure to impact minds and hearts alike, invigorating readers to not let the tragedies and ostracism in the story reoccur in reality.
Of course, not every book that tackles interracial romance and segregation will make a profound impact on me. It all depends on the author’s delivery of said premise, and in this case, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way the author presented her story and characters. The tale follows a road trip where an 80 year old Isabelle is heading to a funeral with Dorrie, her 30 something year old hairdresser. Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle’s relationship has gone from employer/employee to dear friends, yet there’s always this cloak of mystery that surrounds Isabelle that Dorrie can’t figure out.
And even with Dorrie experiencing her own troubles with her boyfriend and children, she still embarks on this road trip with Isabelle, realizing that her old friend will need her for support. Along the way, it warmed my heart to witness the friendship dynamic between the two, from arguing about the pettiest things to confessing hidden secrets, the biggest one being Isabelle’s romance with Robert, the black son of her family’s housekeeper and her one true love, and the consequences that arose because such an interracial relationship was forbidden.
From there, the author alternates between past/present scenes, with Isabelle being the narrator in the past and Dorrie in the present. This way, both women are given an equal voice and keeps the story balanced and me invested. As Isabelle’s tale is unveiled chapter by chapter, I got stomach butterflies while I read about her sweet and tender romance with Robert but also felt the unbearable heartbreak when the inevitable happened. The fact that the story is set during World War II also heightens the pure desperation, the longing and love these two experience.
One word can’t really describe the range of emotions I felt while reading this story. From the beginning and little by little, I could sense my heart splintering in pieces while outwardly maintaining a calm appearance. Gradually, my throat was painfully clogged up, eyes welled with unshed tears, and mouth slightly quivering. It seemed like with each new obstacle uncovered in the story, a heavy weight would be dropped onto my heart until it completely crushed three quarters into the story and I could not stop sobbing after that point. And when I got to the very end, I closed the book feeling three distinct emotions: sadness, contentment, and determination. Immense sadness for all the injustice the characters suffered and their jagged pain. Content because the story came full circle and left me with a teary smile on my face. And determination to not let the mistakes in the story be repeated in the present, at least not by me, and to bring more awareness to the topics explored in the book because sadly, they still permeate society today.
Everyone needs to read this book. Love is love, regardless of race, gender, age, and background.
Calling Me Home is a part women’s fiction, part romance, part historical fiction standalone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed the novel CALLING ME HOME with its two well realized female protagonists. The story is told in turns by the believable voices of almost ninety year old Isabelle and thirty-six year old Dorrie. Dorrie, an African American, is the Caucasian Isabelle's hairdresser and both live somewhere in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Isabelle asks Dorrie to serve as her companion and driver on a long road trip to a funeral in the Cincinnati area where Isabelle was born and lived the first portion of her life. Dorrie agrees to take part in this journey mostly because of her affection for Isabelle but also because she needs a break from her life as a single mother to two teenagers one of whom has entangled himself in a difficult situation with a girlfriend.
On the long road trip Isabelle tells Dorrie the story of her first romance that ended very tragically. Dorrie also gets some unpleasant news regarding some bad choices her son has made. More happily Dorrie begins to realize that she may finally have met the right man who is waiting for her back in Texas. The identity of the person whose funeral the two women are attending is kept hidden from the reader and Dorrie for most of the trip though experienced readers will suspect the truth that comes after a twist or two long before the author reveals it. CALLING ME HOME is a readable novel that's main fault is its predictability. It should appeal to readers of THE HELP and other popular fiction that incorporate important social justice themes.