CMHimages (1)Calling Me Home
Author: Julie Kibler
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (February 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250014522
ISBN-13: 978-1250014528

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 1930’s 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.

What I Think:

FRESH DYNAMIC~

Several reviews compare CALLING ME HOME to THE HELP, so let me address how it stands apart. The main relationship in CALLING ME HOME is between an elderly, widowed white woman (Isabelle) and a middle-aged, single black woman (Dorrie). Many authors agree there are no new characters in any genre, just new relationships. In novels such as THE HELP and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES a character dynamic that is often presented is The Wise Black Woman. CALLING ME HOME offers a fresh dynamic as Isabelle shares her bitter losses and past mistakes in hopes of helping Dorrie through her present-day struggles. The story is about race, but with a different approach.

EMOTIONALLY REWARDING~

Get some tissues, they said. Block out some time, they said. Tragic love story.  Apologies authors, but my reading is done in the carpool line. No leisurely tub reading in this LIFE PHASE – sorry! To be fair, my car is the same place I write fiction, articles and blog posts.

If I’m hungry, I hit this country meat & three with internet. (Don’t worry. I have headphones.) For future reference, when you CRY at a meat & three, the *Nice Guy with a Walker* (whose wife is in a wheelchair & connected to an OXYGEN TANK) will come over and tell you, “Honey, now, it’s just a little ‘ol book.”

You will feel like you’ve been visited by ANDY GRIFFITH.

So, thank you, Julie Kibler. CALLING ME HOME an emotional, rewarding visit. Plus, there was *Nice Guy with a Walker*.

Though the circumstances of the story are extreme – few of us have dealt with Isabelle’s troubles – being controlled by authority figures, feeling powerless, and the intensity of first love, are all universal emotions. Kibler guides readers through these with ease.

ONE FUNNY THING~

Emotional moments during Isabelle’s storytelling are emphasized by a seemingly all-knowing crystal-ball type crossword puzzle book Dorrie picks up at a convenience store on their way out of town.  I wanted the characters to not only note the crossword book’s eerie abilities to perceive/predict the conversation, but to also fling it out the car’s window in terror.

INTERESTING~

Isabelle only states that Dorrie is “African-American”, but Dorrie describes Isabelle’s appearance at length. This bothered me because I thought Kibler had made a white-author-writing-black-people mistake until I reached Isabelle’s description of Robert.

NICE TWISTS~

You think you know, but you don’t. Repeat.

DUAL HEROINES~

I don’t like to compare movies and books, but this novel reminded me of BRAVE in a small way. It took both Dorrie and Isabelle to tell the story, with the small difference being the greater change was in Dorrie.

FINAL THOUGHTS~

A great debut filled with historical suspense. Will she or won’t she? Did she or didn’t she? You can even recommend CALLING ME HOME to your mother. Totally worth it, but not in public. You see, I’m not the crying type. On another note, I searched both Goodreads and Amazon for reviews from readers who aren’t white girls. I only found ONE. I would love to hear reviews from a different point of view.

Nantahala
Class III rapids Nantahala

“ALL FORWARD!!”

In Nantahala River Guide talk, that means – you guessed it – “All paddles in the water and paddle forward until I tell you to stop!”

“Right Forward. Left back.”  – Is terrific!! Spinning in circles while going down rapids is a great way to spend the morning.

Apologies to readers who are more advanced rafters. My first trip was down the family-friendly dammed-controlled Nantahala in North Carolina, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hubs and I decided that after 17 years of marriage we’d take on some Class I – Class III rapids. As promised, the Nantahala’s “eight miles of bouncy waves and lively current”,made it a white water rafting “delight for all ages”. Yep. We weren’t the youngest or the oldest people in the boat.

We chose to sit in the front so we could see. Later, we learned this marked us as candidates most willing to be thrown overboard.

Hubs had his turn first at The Whirlpool, one of the most fun spots on the entire river. The river makes a turn to the right and creates a giant “eddy” (another name for a whirlpool- you look that up for a more technical description)  from the left bank to the center of the river.

The current pushes rafts to the right, but it’s fun to charge left and crash the eddy, which often spins kayaks and rafts. The side tubes of the raft will dip deep into the water. The dipping is what tossed Hubs out. Our raft guide says he’s been throwing people over and swimming there and no one has ever been able to touch the bottom.

I’d been teasing our guide, Kyle, that my side of the boat always got wet once my shorts got dry.

“Really?” he asked. “I thought I had you (going over) when your husband went.”

“My shorts weren’t dry yet.”

Thanks to Kyle and my inability to keep my mouth shut –

I got tossed at Surfing Rapid. A much rockier and less glamorous place to be in the water.

Keep in mind, the water is in the 50’s ALL year ’round. But… you don’t notice so much that you’re wet and cold and floating and not in the boat when Hubs is saying, “Hand me your paddle. Hand me your paddle. Hand me your paddle.”

I handed him the paddle and was pulled back into the boat without knocking myself on every rock imaginable. Honestly, the whole thing was over before it began.

“Wet now?” Kyle chuckled. “Cold?”

“Not so much.”

“Weird, isn’t it?”

(Keep in mind, he’s the sleeveless one in the back of the boat. I had to at least pretend. The dad and son behind us were in wet suits.)

The last rapids are the Class III. Hubs saw them coming, let go of his paddle, and grabbed my arm. You can see it in the pic.

“I’m good,” I said, wanting to remind him who went over first.

“Which river do we go to from here?” he asked. “What’s next?”

“I’m all for it, but let’s ask when we get to the bottom.”

I’ll let you know what we decided. Because that has to do with my WIP…

When it’s warmer.

And my shorts are dry.