Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Who doesn’t love a road story? It was with this thought that I chose to review Calling Me Home which was billed as the journey of two unlikely friends with a mystery as to the reason for the trip. A road story, yes; but more importantly, a window into a friendship that finally allows one of the women to tell a decades-old secret.
The two friends are Dorrie, a black single mother of teenagers, and Isabelle, an elderly white widow. They met when Dorrie, a hairdresser, inherited Isabelle as a client, and although they got off to a rocky start, they have become very close friends. Even so, Dorrie is surprised when Isabelle asks her to drive them from their town in Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral. Not quite knowing why the journey is important to Isabelle, only that it IS important, Dorrie agrees. Other than a few beginning and ending chapters, all of the action of the book takes place on that journey with the chapters alternating between Dorrie and Isabelle.
Dorrie narrates the actual events of their journey and her chapters are filled with her thoughts about Isabelle’s need to attend the funeral, her reactions to Isabelle’s unfolding story, and Dorrie’s own struggle with her teenage son and his pregnant girlfriend who wants an abortion.
Isabelle’s chapters begin as she tells Dorrie a story that starts in 1939. Isabelle, the daughter of prominent parents in a town in the South where blacks cannot even live, is a bit of a rebel to her mother’s social and behavioral expectations and demands. Her rebellion eventually takes her into a hidden interracial relationship with Robert, the son of the family’s housekeeper. Such a relationship between a white girl and black young man is, of course, not only forbidden in society at that time but dangerous, especially for the young man. Where their love for each other takes them is an absorbing and powerful narrative of their personal lives and of the times.
All the characters, not just Dorrie and Isabelle, are fully believable and well written. The theme of a relationship that society deems improper and forbidden is one that has appeared in many forms throughout history and literature and is certainly relevant today. The mystery of whose funeral it is and why Isabelle was compelled to attend is finally disclosed and packs an unexpected emotional punch. From the first chapter to the last, I was wholly immersed in a story that draws one along with the need to know how all the present and past stories will resolve themselves.
Calling Me Home is one of the finest and most satisfying books I have had the pleasure to read recently and could have a future on the silver screen. Think The Help… think Fried Green Tomatoes…..think Driving Miss Daisy. I think Hollywood will be missing a sure bet if it passes this by.
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